'Delilah' rings loud and proud as Wales fans refuse to be silenced

Wales rugby fans - PA/Nigel French
Wales rugby fans - PA/Nigel French

Memo to the Welsh Rugby Union: do not tell your fans what cannot be sung at their home of rugby. The WRU instructed the London Welsh Male Voice Choir to take Sir Tom Jones’s classic off their repertoire, but there was a rather larger ensemble in the 74,500 crowd intent on not being silenced.

If Ireland's dominance was Samsonian, then “Delilah” occupied so much of the Welsh narrative off the pitch.

Just as the second half began - and, pertinently, in the seconds following the booming tunes over the tannoy had blessedly gone quiet - so the “ light in the night that I passed by her window” reverberated under the roof.

Wales actually scored their first - and only - try as the rousing rendition was under way.

No doubt, there will be plenty who think it absurd that the protest song about a union involved in a sexism scandal, has the subject matter of a jealous lover killing his unfaithful girlfriend, and they are probably right that it would be preferable for the Stadium and its support to go elsewhere for their anthems.

But as much as this rhythmic rebellion seemed a reaction to wokery, it was also an uplifting uprising against a governing body that is plainly in chaos.

The resistance began early. In the hours ahead of kick-off, the 1968 hit was heard loud on the streets and, of course, in the pubs. It was perhaps the most melodic mutiny Cardiff has ever witnessed. And nowhere was it delivered with any more gusto than in the Old Arcade, one of the capital’s most famous rugby taverns.

“I’d played it five times by 12.30pm,” Mark Falzon, the establishment’s manager said. “And the punters were requesting it all the time. There was not much support for the WRU here.”

And so a deeply troubling period for the WRU became yet more uncomfortable. Certainly, the chairman, Ieuan Evans, would have been shifting awkwardly in his padded seat as the “Ha, Ha, Ha” was belted out. He sat there squirming.

Ross Byrne of Ireland is tackled by Tommy Reffell, left, and Justin Tipuric - Getty Images/Brendan Moran
Ross Byrne of Ireland is tackled by Tommy Reffell, left, and Justin Tipuric - Getty Images/Brendan Moran

On Thursday, Evans, the Wales and Lions great, was summoned to the Senedd and forced  to answer questions from the Welsh AMs concerning the recent claims of sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and racism that led to last weekend’s resignation of chief executive Steve Phillips.

Evans, who only assumed the role in December, has ordered an external taskforce to investigate allegations raised on the BBC Wales Investigates programme of a “toxic culture”, which is all very noble but the history of the WRU happens to be littered with reviews that were often ignored and sometimes unpublished.

Evans was even confronted with comments from his own autobiography. “Bread of Heaven” was published in 1995 and the AMs wanted to know what has changed since Evans penned the following.

“Sadly, there were people on the WRU then who simply were not capable of making the right decisions because they were too parochial, too insular or just plain short-sighted. As the old saying goes, there are none so blind as those who will not see.”

In truth, the only thing that has changed was that back then the WRU was seen as shambolic, but now is seen as shambolic AND toxic. Evans’s primary challenge is to professionalise a union still essentially governed by amateurs and ensure that the words of stand-in CEO Nigel Walker, another former Wales wing, are acted upon.

“As an organisation, we have been in denial as to the extent of the problem,” Walker, with commendable and almost staggering honestly,  told the politicians.

The WRU is in panic mode and this state of paranoic alert was responsible for the kneejerk reaction to stop the London Welsh Male Voice Choir from going ahead and singing the Sir Tom Jones classic on Saturday. An “and finally…” item on ITV Wales News showed the Guernsey Welsh Male Voice Choir rehearsing for their appearance for the England game in three weeks’ time.

The snippet faded out with the choir singing “Delilah”. Alarm bells proceeded to go off in Westgate Street and the choirs were hurriedly informed to scrub Delilah from their set-lists. All that was then left was for Telegraph Sport to reveal the banning of the crowd favourite and in the resulting “PC gone mad” furore for many others to declare that this, in fact, was more of a case of “PR gone mad” and that the WRU should be concentrating on fixing the real problems.

This incredulity was shared within the Welsh squad itself.  "All the things they need to do and they do that first…" tweeted Louis Rees Zammitt. There are team-mates of the young wing who play for the Welsh regions and still do not know if they will have contracts at the end of the season. The WRU has still to agree as a funding deal with their professional entities and as the saga drags on, so the confidence in the structure and, primarily, with its overlords corrodes yet further.

The Delilah affair was always going to end embarrassingly for the WRU and although it is a nonsense it has, if nothing else, served to sum up still further the mess that is Welsh rugby. It is no laughing matter.