Rugby Union: Carling sings praise for another planet: England swing away from low-slung chariot towards a new anthem

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The Independent Online
EVEN with a name like his, Gustav Holst was an Englishman - just as well, since 'I Vow To Thee My Country', whose melody is taken from Holst's Planet's Suite, is the England players' choice to be their very own anthem. Not, please note, 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot'.

The players want the song played along with the rest, including if necessary 'God Save The Queen', during the formal pre-match line-up but the best they can do for the match against New Zealand at Twickenham on 27 November is to have it played as they take the field.

The idea is that there would not be a stiff upper lip in the house. Will Carling has got this far after being the first of his line to address a full meeting of the Rugby Football Union committee. 'It's about time England had their own anthem,' the England captain said yesterday, sensing that the likes of the 'Marseillaise' and 'Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau' put his players at an emotional disadvantage.

'As a first step down the road, when England run out against the All Blacks they will play 'I Vow To Thee My Country'. There were reservations that they didn't want to get rid of the national anthem; they said the Queen was the patron of the game. But that's really a British song.

'It would be significantly more uplifting to have what is going to be a 70,000 stadium singing something like that. It would be very emotional and it would be very inspiring for the England players. It would be an extra edge for us.'

As England have not lost a Five Nations match at Twickenham since 1988, 'God Save The Queen' does not seem to have done them badly. The problem is that in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Paris (though not usually in Dublin) it is always roundly jeered.

Carling revealed his appearance before the RFU committee when speaking at the launch in London of Will Carling: The Authorised Biography, by David Norrie (Headline, pounds 16.99). A new spirit of co-operation is abroad, since the union has agreed to meet player representatives each time the England squad get together to thrash out problems. This applies in particular to off-field earnings, a vexed area where the players have seen the RFU as consistently obstructive and reluctant ever since the amateur regulations were loosened.

Carling also told the administrators that the increase in Courage Clubs' Championship fixtures from 12 to 18 was asking too much of leading players. 'It's just ridiculous,' he said. 'There's no time to play outside the leagues because at the moment there are no holes in the fixture-list. Maybe 14 league games would be ideal.'

The 18-game format has only just begun but Carling expects the structure of league and representative fixtures to be re-examined. He would also, as it happens, like an opportunity to play in the Hong Kong Sevens.