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PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2020 11:49 am 
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The mystery behind why Swing Low, Sweet Chariot was first sung at the home of English rugby has been solved, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) believes.

It has long been an anthem of England fans and is belted out lustily whenever the national team plays at Twickenham.

The African-American spiritual was not thought to have been sung there until 1988, when Chris Oti got a hat-trick.

But archive footage has now been found of it being sung at Twickenham in 1987 when Martin "Chariots" Offiah played.

The speedy winger was given the nickname Chariots Offiah as a play on words with the film Chariots of Fire, which is about two athletes racing in the 1924 Olympics.

Curator of the Twickenham-based World Rugby Museum Phil McGowan, who unearthed the footage, believes Swing Low was clearly sung in 1987 with a nod to the "chariot" in both the song's name and Offiah's nickname.

The discovery of the archive footage, from the 1987 Middlesex Sevens tournament, was a surprise even to the rugby legend himself.

"People used to ask if it was a reference to me and I said, 'I don't think so'," said the 53-year-old Londoner, who is regarded as one of the greatest rugby league players of all time but who started out in rugby union.

"When the RFU told me they had found this footage I thought, 'Wow, so I have got some link with this song'."

McGowan said what sparked his detective work was a conversation with a visitor to the World Rugby Museum, who "very casually" said he remembered singing Swing Low for Offiah at the Middlesex Sevens.

"That wasn't much of a big deal but later on it occurred to me that Martin Offiah only played at the Middlesex Sevens in 1987, which was the year before this song was supposed to have been sung for the first time [at Twickenham]," said McGowan.

He then got hold of archive footage from the BBC programme Rugby Special.

"I played it through and there it was, it's unmistakeable," said McGowan, who was "very surprised" because the story about England winger Oti had been established for a long time.

Edit: Oops, should have checked, the Dom Dom beat me to it. I see Seneca is chuffed to bits.

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