Mon 30 Sep 2019 | 11:22

RWC: The Songs They Sing Officially

RWC: The Songs They Sing Officially
Mon 30 Sep 2019 | 11:22
RWC: The Songs They Sing Officially

Before each Rugby World Cup match, the two teams line up and their anthem is sung. There are 20 teams and so 20 anthems.


Some are better known than others, but at the World Cup of 2019, after the opening match, the anthems have been accompanied only by music and some times it is hard to hear any words at all.

Some anthems are old, some surprisingly young. When we look into them, we find some interesting bits and pieces like

whose anthem is oldest?
whose anthem in youngest?
whose anthem was first sung at a rugby match?
which sport first had an anthem sung before the contest?
whose anthem is bilingual or, in one case, multilingual?

People may like to know the anthems. Some may even want to sing along. Once when South Africa played Scotland, the Scots were singing Flower of Scotland, and so was lock Mark Andrews who was lined up in the Springbok team and would be playing against Scotland. He just liked Flower of Scotland, as many people do – a modern song about an ancient battle filled with patriotic fervour and hope.

It is interesting to watch the players. Some sing their anthem with enthusiasm, some even weep with emotion, while some have players who do not sing at all. In one case not singing could be construed as a political statement!And then there is Alun Wynn Jones, a big man whose singing of his anthem surpasses all others’.

Some are national anthems and some or songs created for use at rugby matches. Some are gently musical, like Samoa’s. Some end in a shout of determination, like Argentina’s and Italy’s.


We shall give the anthems, pool by pool, with a bit of history/explanation and a translation into English where necessary and it will be necessary for half of the anthems.

The Pools

Pool A: Ireland, Japan, Russia, Samoa, Scotland
Pool B: Canada, Italy, Namibia, New Zealand, South Africa,
Pool C: Argentina, England, France, Tonga, USA
Pool D: Australia, Georgia, Uruguay, Wales

We start with Pool A, and Ireland are first up.



We start with Ireland, which is appropriate as their anthem was made to order for a Rugby World Cup.

Ireland, a small island, is politically divided. The division has been bitter and became more obvious after the 1930 partition of Ireland that produced a republic in the south and a part of the United Kingdom in the north.

Rugby produced a united team of north and south, as nothing else managed to do for Ireland, but southerners did not want to sing God Save the Queen and northerners did not want to sing the republican anthem, The Soldiers Song, sung in Gaelic, which was sung before internationals in Dublin. At the first World Cup in 1987, Ireland had no anthem. At the 1991 World Cup, Ireland ;played in Dublin, bar one match which they played against Scotland in Edinburgh and, by way of a compromise, no anthem was sung.

Then came 1995 in South Africa, and the Irish RFU decided to get a song to sing as an anthem. They approached Phil Coulter – a songwriter who was a Northern Ireland Catholic. He composed “Ireland’s Call”. That is what is being sung in Japan when Ireland play.

Ireland’s Call

Come the day and come the hour
Come the power and the glory
We have come to answer Our Country’s call
From the four proud provinces of Ireland

Ireland, Ireland Together standing tall
Shoulder to shoulder
We’ll answer Ireland’s call

The four provinces of Ireland are Munster, Leinster and Connacht in the southern republic and Ulster in the north.


Kimigayo is regarded as the anthem with the oldest lyrics of them all, written at some time around the 10th century. It had music attached to it by an Englishman, John Fenton, in 1869 but it was soon rejected because it was not solemn enough. Instead a new melody was composed in 1880 by a Japanese composer, Hiromori Hayashi. It is short but solemn.

Kimigayo  in Translation

May your reign
Continue for a thousand, eight thousand generations,
Until what are now tiny pebbles
Grow into massive boulders
Lush with moss


Russia has had many great composers – Rimsky Korsakov, Borodin, Tchaikovsky and Stravinski among them. None of them wrote the aggressive Russian anthem.

The Russian national anthem  that is now in use is new. Russia is old but its anthem young. When USSR, the Soviet Union, broke up in 1990, Russia acquired a new, Russia-centric anthem, which was not popular. But in 2000, Vladimir Putin’s government established a new Russian anthem, music composed by Alexander Alexandrov in 1939, words by Sergey Mikhalkov.

Words in Translation

Russia – our holy nation
Russia – our beloved country.
A mighty will, great glory –
These belong to you for all time!

Long live our Fatherland, land of the free,
Age-old union of brother nations,
Popular wisdom given by our forebears!
Be glorious, our country! We are proud of you!

From the southern seas to the polar lands
Spread our forests and fields.
You are unique in the world, one of a kind –
Native land protected by God!

Wide spaces for dreams and for living
Are opened for us by the coming years
Our loyalty to our Fatherland gives us strength.
Thus it was, thus it is and always will be!


When Samoa – the western part of the island – was freed from New Zealand, in 1962, it gained its own flag and its own anthem, The Banner of Freedom, composed by Sauni Iiga Kuresa, a beautiful soft, slow an lilting anthem with lots of rounded vowels, as is the way of the South Sea islanders, despite the war dance that follows.

Samoa, tula’i ma sisi ia lau fu’a, lou pale lea!
Samoa, tula’i ma sisi ia lau fu’a, lou pale lea!
Vaai ‘i na fetu o lo’u a agiagia ai:
Le faailoga lea o Iesu, na maliu ai mo Samoa.
Oi, Samoa e, u’u mau lau pule ia faavavau.
‘Aua e te fefe; o le Atua lo ta fa’avae, o lota sa’olotoga.
Samoa, tula’i: ‘ua agiagia lau fu’a, lou pale lea!


Samoa, arise and raise your flag, your crown!
Samoa, arise and raise your flag, your crown!
Look at those stars that are waving on it:
This is the symbol of Jesus, who died on it for Samoa.
Oh, Samoa, hold fast your power forever.
Do not be afraid; God is our foundation, our freedom.
Samoa, arise: your flag is waving, your crown!


There was a time when only one anthem was sung when Scotland played England and that was God Save the Queen. The last time that happened at Murrayfield was in 1988, on a miserable day when many in the crowd voiced their objection, loudly and rudely, to God Save the Queen.

The Scottish Rugby Union looked for a song of their own. In 1974, the great B&I Lions were touring South Africa and on a bus Gordon Brown heard Billy Steele sing Flower of Scotland, hit song of the Corries, a folk group who released the song in 1974. Brown proposed, the Unions accepted and Flower Scotland became Scotland’s popular anthem, a new song about an old fight.

O Flower of Scotland

Words and music: Roy Williamson of the Corries
Date: 1967 about a battle fought in 1314, which Scotland won.
Adopted by the Scottish Rugby Union in 1990.

O Flower of Scotland,
When will we see
Your like again,
That fought and died for,
Your wee bit hill and glen,
And stood against him,
Proud Edward’s army,
And sent him homeward,
To think again.

Those days are past now,
And in the past
they must remain,
But we can still rise now,
And be the nation again,
That stood against him,
Proud Edward’s army,
And sent him homeward,
To think again.

And remember to pronounce To as Tae (Tay).

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