Owen  Lloyd

It's Friday night. I'm sat on the sofa next to my Dad ready to watch the Rugby World Cup's blockbuster opening fixture between France and New Zealand with crisps in hand. It's a perfect set up.

I make certain we're ready at least 10 minutes early to catch the anthems, which inexplicably is one of my favourite bits about rugby. Couldn't give a monkey's about them in any other sport. 

I was waxing lyrical about France's La Marseillaise which is easily the best of the lot (sorry to all you Fratelli d'Italia fans).

It comes flying out of the traps with a rousing call to arms before a jolly refrain encouraging us to water furrows with blood. If that doesn't make you feel up for it, I don't know what will. No wonder the French don't stand for any BS.

Musically it is near-flawless. There's a reason that Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and The Beatles have all used the song in their work.

Admittedly, the addition of cannons in the 1812 Overture does give a certain explosive quality but I'm not sure they would allow those being wheeled into the Stade de France. Although it could sort out the security problem.

Anyway, you can imagine my excitement for this rendition of Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle's banger.

A French crowd always give it some welly, especially in recent years having witnessed their national side play some of the most exciting rugby on the planet. Combine that with the anticipation of a home World Cup where they are one of the firm favourites - it's gonna be a belter.

The much-anticipated La Marseillaise was barely recognisable in France's opening fixture of its home Rugby World Cup ©Getty Images
The much-anticipated La Marseillaise was barely recognisable in France's opening fixture of its home Rugby World Cup ©Getty Images

But what's this? A choir? Of children?!

Surely you can't be serious (they were, and they have told me not to call them Shirley). 

I tell myself to give them a chance, they've been practicing for months and there is no way they could butcher it.

That is launched out of the window within seconds when the most discordant omnishambles imaginable breaks loose.

But the blame can't all be pinned on the choir, apparently it is a natural phenomenon that players and fans often go out of sync when attempting to sing along.

I say just leave it to the likes of Katherine Jenkins to lead the charge, or whoever the French equivalent is. Where's Édith Piaf when you need her?

These anthems clearly form an important part of many others' rugby-watching experience as numerous notable figures voiced their contempt at the rendition.

Former French tennis player Julien Benneteau described the performance as the "most rotten La Marseillaise in history".

Ex-England fly-half Andy Goode also called for organisers to "stop butchering the life out of them" during the performance of God Save the King before his country took on Argentina.

Although I'm not sure he has much of a leg to stand on considering that is just an interminable drone and easily one of the worst songs of all time.

Jerusalem is the clear choice to replace it for England's sporting anthem, as is done at the Commonwealth Games, but that's a whole other conversation.  

The choir had been accused of
The choir had been accused of "butchering" God Save the King, but let's face it, that one cannot get much worse ©Getty Images

The uproar has led to the World Cup Organising Committee, World Rugby, and the French Sports Ministry to take action.

I felt bad after slating the children's choir so I'm glad they haven't been completely binned off.

Organisers have remixed versions of the anthems performed by the Mêlée des Choeurs, the project involving more than 7,000 of the young singers.

These remixes retain recordings of their voices while boosting the instrumental elements which is aimed to allow fans and players to bellow out the tunes.

"All parties involved in the process would like to extend our warmest thanks to the students of the Mêlée des Choeurs, the teachers from the Education Nationale, the Maitrise Populaire and the Opéra-Comique, who have been passionately involved in this project since its inception," read a statement from the Organising Committee.

"We would also like to thank the teams for their full support and look forward to fans getting behind their teams as the anthems are played."

The anthem fiasco was not the only difficulty faced in the early stages of this year's quadrennial event.

ITV, which has exclusive broadcasting rights for the tournament in the United Kingdom, appeared to struggle keeping track of the score in the opening fixture.

As France were pulling away from the All Blacks in the final minutes, Melvyn Jaminet slightly skewed the conversion of his own try which confused the network, as well as the officials in fairness.

His kick appeared to be heading in between the posts before veering just wide of the mark at the last second, sending it directly over the top of the right post. 

This caused one assistant referee to raise his flag to signal a successful attempt while the other kept it down.

The correct decision that Jaminet missed was immediately clarified on the pitch and was clear to see at home judging by reactions in the stadium.

However, the sight of one raised flag led the broadcaster to award France two extra points and falsely state the final score as 29-13.

It denied the hosts of their biggest winning margin against New Zealand which was achieved in a 2021 test, also at the Stade de France, where they prevailed 40-25.

And my final moan of the day goes to the make-up of ITV's punditry teams. 

Three Englishmen on the panel in the form of Jonny Wilkinson, Lawrence Dallaglio, and Sir Clive Woodward for the Argentina match. Thought things were supposed to be diverse nowadays!

At least one representative for the other team would have been nice. Maybe Agustín Pichot has a bit of free time after sadly missing out on the World Rugby Presidency. 

Now having entered its second full week, the Rugby World Cup is going swimmingly with thrills and spills in nearly every match - see Fiji's first win against Australia in 69 years.

On the anthems front, there were even tears from both sides before Wales took on Portugal at the weekend so it seems the change has stirred up the passion we have become accustomed to on the big stage.

Bring on France versus Italy next month for a showdown between the chorale kings. 

The game might be alright too.