RFU scraps 'Saxons' nickname in diversity drive

·3-min read
England Saxons in action against South Africa A in 2016 - GETTY IMAGES
England Saxons in action against South Africa A in 2016 - GETTY IMAGES

The RFU has decided to drop the 'Saxons' moniker used for one of its senior England teams after it was deemed inappropriate, according to The Times.

Last October, Andy Cosslett, the chairman of English rugby's governing body, said the organisation needed to "step up its efforts to improve diversity and inclusion across our game", and as such the Saxons nickname will no longer be used and England’s second team will revert to England 'A'.

It brings to an end 15 years of the 'Saxons' brand, which was given the green light in 2006, pipping alternatives such as 'England Bloods' and 'England Aces'.

The newly-branded England 'A' play Scotland A in Leicester on June 27 and a RFU spokesman said: "We have chosen to revert to the traditional name of 'England A' for this fixture against 'Scotland A' as a better representation of our team today."

The Saxons decision follows the RFU’s move to distance itself from Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, the terrace anthem used by England supporters.

It also comes after the Football Association creating a new, more inclusive crest featuring a cub, lion and lioness, which prompted a fan backlash. FA social media channels emphasised that there would be no changes to the senior kits, after criticism of the motif, which was designed to encourage grassroots participation. But hundreds of England fans tweeted their dismay at the design, with some suggesting that the branding was "PC nonsense".

The RFU is hopeful rugby supporters will be more understanding of its decision to replace Saxons with England 'A'. Back in 2006, there were only a few black players in the England team. Today it is more multicultural and the decision to scrap the Saxons name is designed to reflect that.

Meanwhile the RFU have reaffirmed that singing of 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' at Twickenham will not be banned, but that the organisation will continue to educate supporters regarding the song's origins, which has been popular at the home of English rugby since the late 1980s.

"The RFU has stated it will not ban 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' as it has a long-held place in rugby history however, the Union will use its social media and event audiences to proactively educate fans on the history and provenance of the song as well as providing platforms for diverse voices across the game," a spokesperson informed Telegraph Sport.

Research carried out by the RFU last year on 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' concluded that 74 per cent of people, rising to 84 per cent of those from a BAME background, agreed that it is important for England Rugby to actively educate fans on the origins of Swing Low, while 69 per cent of respondents said the song should not be banned.

The RFU released a documentary on the origins of the song in October last year, featuring current England lock Maro Itoje, former England Women's captain Paula George and former rugby league great Martin Offiah, with the video designed to educate supporters of the song's history and origins during slavery in the 1800s.

Itoje in the documentary backed a greater education regarding the original context of the song, before adding: "I'm not going to sit here and tell people what they should and shouldn't do, but personally, given what I know about the original context, that's not the song I'll be singing anymore when I'm part of England or when I'm a fan watching England play."