Chorus of disapproval: National anthems sung by schoolkids at Rugby World Cup out of tune with teams

The project was commendable: Get choirs selected from a group of 7,000 French schoolkids from diverse backgrounds to sing each country’s national anthem before games at the Rugby World Cup.

Less than a week into the tournament, however, the plan has been scrapped.

Following a backlash by fans and commentators and the awkward sight of players being completely out of sync with the choirs, organizers bowed to pressure Thursday by saying the children’s voices from the “Melee des Choeurs” will be boosted by “instrumental elements” when anthems ring out around stadiums in the second week of the World Cup.

France, which plays Uruguay on Thursday, is among the nations to have already agreed to the modified version of its anthem. Organizers hope “final confirmation from all teams (can) be achieved in the next 48 hours.”

A passionate rendition of a national anthem can be seen as a final rallying cry by rugby teams before matches, with players seen shaking and even crying while singing them over the years. At least one player from Chile's team was in tears after singing the country's anthem before its World Cup debut against Japan on Sunday.

The use of the children’s choirs has had the opposite effect for some, with former Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll saying the anthems have been “terrible” and that France’s “La Marseillaise” and Italy’s rousing “The Song of the Italians” were “butchered.”

“The perceptions that we had and the feedback that we got after the eight games was that these national anthems were more surprising or disturbing to our fans who were used to hearing a different version of these national anthems,” Jacques Rivoal, president of the World Cup organizing committee, said through a translator at a tournament news conference on Wednesday.

“We are here to prioritize the fan experience and we were quite concerned by this negative feedback, considering the fact that the artistic quality of the national anthem was not being questioned."

Rivoal said teams felt it was a “very important point that we deliver the national anthem properly.”

Hence the backtracking by organizers and the use of what they are now calling “remixed anthems.”

“We would also like to thank the teams for their full support and look forward to fans getting behind their teams as the anthems are played,” the organizing committee said.


AP Rugby World Cup: