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Swing Low gets Twickenham rocking, says England skipper Hartley

England captain Dylan Hartley welcomes the "feelgood factor" generated when Swing Low, Sweet Chariot is sung at Twickenham.

Doubts over the appropriateness of the song, originally an African-American spiritual about the horrors of slavery, being sung at rugby matches have resurfaced this week.

Having been sounded at rugby clubs on these shores, it is understood to have been first adopted by England's fans at a Five Nations match against Ireland at Twickenham in 1988.

This week's criticism of supporters at Twickenham singing Swing Low initially came from Josephine Wright, a professor of music and black studies at the College of Wooster in Ohio.

She told the New York Times: "Such cross-cultural appropriations of US slave songs betray a total lack of understanding of the historical context in which those songs were created by the American slave."

Hartley, who leads England into Saturday's Calcutta Cup clash at Twickenham, insists it lifts the team.

"I don't know the history. To me Swing Low is the England rugby song," the Rotorua-born hooker said.

"I've knew it like that as a kid, growing up in New Zealand. Should I know the history?

"To us it's the noise, the sheer atmosphere it generates and the feelgood factor it gives Twickenham.

The Rugby Football Union, which references Swing Low's lyrics by using the hashtag #CarryThemHome on social media, has defended the singing of the song at England games.

An RFU spokeswoman told Press Association Sport: "Swing Low has been associated with rugby and rugby clubs for decades. It is sung by fans to get behind the rugby team."

Kath Muir, who has run the fanzine Unofficial England since 2003 as its editor, expects the song to continue to be sung by Red Rose supporters - regardless of the debate surrounding it.

She said: "I agree that many England fans will not know the history of the song, as I think it has been lost in time. I honestly don't think the fans have any bad intention at all."

Muir expects the song will be sung at Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash between England and Scotland, and says the debate has been blown out of proportion.

"I think they're making a big thing out of this. I really do," she added.

"I wouldn't say it's nothing, talking about the history of it. I'm not saying that slavery is nothing. I don't think the fans even mean anything.

"It's such a tradition for them to sing it. I think they'll still sing it regardless."

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