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Rugby Union: What’s in a name?

By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw

The English Rugby Football Union (RFU) has abandoned the nickname “Saxons” for the England National Second Team, after it was considered inappropriate in view of the sport’s drive “to reflect the diversity in society.”

The England Second Team will revert to the name England A after fifteen years being branded as “The England Saxons”.

Andy Cosslet, the RFU Chairman, stated, in October 2020, that the organisation needed to:

step up its efforts to improve diversity and inclusion across our game.”

In 2003, when England won the Rugby World Cup, the only black player in the team was Jason Robinson, but, today, the National Team is more multi-cultural and, therefore, the decision to scrap the name “Saxons” is designed to reflect that make-up.”

Thus, the RFU has chosen to resort to the traditional name of “England A” as a better representation today of the England National Team.

Hugo Monye, the former England winger and chairman of the RFU Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group, has remarked as follows:

It’s really important that we get this right so that anyone from anywhere feels rugby is a game for them.”

The RFU has also decided to distance itself from the England rugby supporters terrace anthem of the negro spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” in view of its association with slavery.

As Martin Offiah, the England Rugby League highest try scorer, whilst welcoming the name change, describing it as a gesture in the right direction, has commented that it needs to be followed by something more substantial, such as more black RFU Board Members and the appointment of a black coach.

He would appear to have a good point, as the author of this Post does not find anything objectionable or racist in the name “Saxons” which is part of England’s diverse heritage!

Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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