England’s Rugby Football Union drops Saxons name to ‘better represent’ diversity


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England's Saxons play after a second-place international against South Africa A in 2016. The Saxons name has now been dropped by England in an attempt to promote diversity.

Steve Haag / Getty Images

England’s Saxons play after a second-place international against South Africa A in 2016. The Saxons name has now been dropped by England in an attempt to promote diversity.

The Rugby Football Union of England ditched the controversial Saxons nickname for its second-tier international team.

An RFU spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday (Wednesday New Zealand time) that the team will be known as England A for a game against Scotland A in Leicester on June 27.

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England’s second-tier international rugby team in South Africa in 2016.

“We have chosen to revert to the traditional name of ‘England A’ for this game against ‘Scotland A’ as a better representation of our team today, ” the spokesperson said Time.

English newspapers say the name Saxons – first adopted by the RFU in 2006 – was often used to describe whites.

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English rugby now has more black, African and ethnic minority players, including their biggest star, the British and Irish Lions lock down Maro Itoje.

Martin Offiah, Britain’s Rugby League international and former rugby union professional, supported the dumping of the Saxons’ name, but said the RFU must make diversity a higher priority.

Francois Venter (R) of South Africa A is tackled by a rival of the Saxons of England in 2016.

Roger Sedres / Gallo Images / Getty Images

Francois Venter (R) of South Africa A is tackled by a rival of the Saxons of England in 2016.

“Adding names like Saxons was probably a little misguided”, he said in The daily mail.

“It’s a gesture that we are going in the right direction, but the gestures must have something more substantial behind. Are we going to see a black coach of the England rugby union team, more black members of the board? How many blacks are involved in the business department? These are the conversations we need to have. ”

Last year, the RFU launched a review of diversity and racism, with President Andy Cosslett admitting the union must “redouble its efforts to improve diversity and inclusion in our game.”

Former England wing Ugo Monye now chairs an RFU diversity and inclusion group.

Mike Hewitt / Getty Images

Former England wing Ugo Monye now chairs an RFU diversity and inclusion group.

An independent diversity and inclusion group – led by broadcaster and former England and Lions wing Ugo Monye – has since been set up.

The RFU’s decision to drop the Saxons ‘name is similar to the Crusaders’ scrutiny of their name and branding after the 2019 mosque shooting in Christchurch.

Some critics felt that the Crusaders name and logo had negative connotations due to links to the Crusades of the Middle Ages – a series of wars between Christians and Muslims.

After a period of consultation, officials of the Crusaders franchise decided to keep the Crusaders name, but dropped the team logo of a knight in combat.

Changes have also been made to the Crusaders’ pre-match horse parade, with the costumes and swords of the knights abandoned.

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