Boris Johnson has said rugby fans should not be banned from singing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot as the sports governing body reviews the historical context of the song.
The prime minister said there should not be “any sort of prohibition on singing that song”, and he would “love” to hear the lyrics in full.
The Guardian revealed on Thursday that the Rugby Football Union is reviewing its context amid the Black Lives Matter protests.
It is believed to have its roots in American slavery, with its credited author being Wallace Willis – a freed slave from 19th century Oklahoma.
Johnson, a keen rugby fan, was asked about the song during a visit to a school in Hertfordshire.
He said: “As for Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, nobody as far as I understand it seems to know the words – whenever I go to a rugby match … before we start complaining about Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Id like to know what the rest of the words are.
“You go Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, coming for to carry me home, and then it all dies out. How does it go on? Thats my question.
“I certainly dont think there should be any sort of prohibition on singing that song. My curiosity is why dont people seem to know the rest of it – Id love to hear the rest of it.”
The prime ministers comments came as the former England international Brian Moore said he did not understand why the song became so popular among spectators.
“This was sung in rugby clubs when I was still a colt and well before Martin Offiah and Chris Oti played senior rugby,” he wrote on Twitter. “It was sung because of the rude gestures that went with it and without any thought of its origins. The world has moved on and, rightly, things that were normal then should not necessarily be normal now.
“Had todays context be known then it might not have been sung. Among other reasons for the RFU encouraging people not to sing it, one of the main ones is that most people only know two verses and its crap as a national song because it has no relevance to England.”