World in Union

"World in Union", with lyrics by Charlie Skarbek, is a theme song for the Rugby World Cup that attempts to capture the spirit of international friendship which exemplifies rugby union culture the world over.

The melody is "Thaxted"—the stately theme from the middle section of "Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity", a movement from Gustav Holst's "The Planets", and was originally adapted for its use in the British/Anglican patriotic hymn, "I Vow to Thee, My Country".

Kiri Te Kanawa versionEdit

"World in Union"
Single by Kiri Te Kanawa
Released16 September 1991
GenreOpera, classical
Songwriter(s)Gustav Holst, Charlie Skarbek

New Zealand operatic soprano Kiri Te Kanawa recorded the first version of this song for the 1991 Rugby World Cup, which went to No.4 in the UK Singles Chart.

Shirley Bassey and Bryn Terfel versionEdit

"World in Union"
Single by Shirley Bassey and Bryn Terfel
from the album Land of My Fathers
Released11 October 1999
GenreClassical crossover
Songwriter(s)Gustav Holst, Charlie Skarbek
Producer(s)Charlie Skarbek

Shirley Bassey and Bryn Terfel released a version of the song on 11 October 1999. It was controversially mimed live by at the opening of the series in June 1999, with Bassey famously wearing a gown designed on the Welsh flag. Three versions are featured on the CD single: a duet with Bassey and Terfel, Bassey's solo version and a version which features the choirs only. The duet version is performed partially in Welsh by Terfel. The official video was filmed at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff and features various other Welsh landscapes. The single marked a rare return to the UK Singles Chart for Bassey, where it reached #35[1] in October 1999.

UK 3 track maxi CD single

  1. "World in Union" (Duet: Bryn Terfel and Shirley Bassey) – 3:42
  2. "World in Union" (Shirley Bassey) – 3:45
  3. "World in Union" (Welsh Mountain Mix) – 3:45


  • Shirley Bassey – vocal (tracks 1 and 2)
  • Bryn Terfel – vocal (track 1)
  • The Black Mountain Male Chorus – choir (all tracks)
  • The Morriston Rugby Club Choir – choir (all tracks)
  • Robert Fardell and Charlie Skarbek – backing singers (track 2)
  • The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra – orchestra
  • Llio Rhydderch – Welsh triple harp
  • Troy Donockleyuilleann pipes
  • David Thomas – drums
  • Simon Hale – orchestral arrangements
  • Tim Rhys-Evans and D. Huw Rees – choral arrangements

Hayley Westenra versionEdit

"World in Union"
Single by Hayley Westenra
from the album World in Union : The Rugby World Cup 2011 (The Official Album)
ReleasedAugust 26, 2011
GenreClassical crossover, pop
Songwriter(s)Gustav Holst, Charlie Skarbek

The official album of the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand was launched on 9 August by New Zealand soprano Hayley Westenra. It is released by Universal Music on August 26 and is available on CD and at iTunes and other digital providers,[2][3] features 22 tracks recorded by some world-renowned classical artists. Westenra had not only recorded the song in English and Māori, as heard on this album, but also in French, Italian, and Japanese.[4][5][6] It got No. 1 album position on the Classical Compilation Albums Chart of Official Charts as well as the Classic FM chart after releasing in UK.[7][8]

The Official Album track listing

  1. World In Union – Hayley Westenra
  2. Swing Low '99 – Arr. C. Skarbek/ T.R. Evans – Russell Watson, Royal Choral Society
  3. Land of My Fathers – Fron Male Voice Choir
  4. Ireland's Call – Brian Kennedy, Paul Byrom
  5. Scottish Medley – Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
  6. Jerusalem – The Coldstream Guards Band, Alfie Boe
  7. Glorious – Mary-Jess
  8. Now's The Time – Luigi Corvi
  9. Calon Lan – Katherine Jenkins
  10. O Verona – Only Men Aloud
  11. Pokarekare Ana – Hayley Westenra, Francois Rive, Robbie McIntosh, Metro Voices, Te Tau Choir, Jenny O'Grady, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Ian Dean
  12. Waltzing Matilda – André Rieu, Mirusia Louwerse
  13. We'll keep a welcome – Bryn Terfel, Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera, Gareth Jones, The Black Mountain Choir, The Risca Choir
  14. Nkosi Sikelel'i Afrika – Kenyan Boys Choir
  15. Men of Harlech – Fron Male Voice Choir
  16. God Defend New Zealand – Hayley Westenra
  17. The Fields Of Athenry – Máiréad Carlin
  18. Cwm Rhondda – Bryn Terfel, Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera, Gareth Jones, The Black Mountain Choir, The Risca Choir
  19. La Marseillaise – Roberto Alagna
  20. Swing Low – All Angels
  21. World In Union (English / Māori) – Hayley Westenra
  22. Kakari (Haka 2011) – Qube

Paloma Faith versionEdit

"World in Union"
Single by Paloma Faith
GenrePower pop
Songwriter(s)Gustav Holst, Charlie Skarbek

R&B singer Paloma Faith was selected to record the song as the official 2015 Rugby World Cup anthem. Her rendition of the song was used on ITV's Rugby World Cup coverage during advert breaks, a decision that was greeted negatively by some viewers. A petition to have the song removed was set up by viral marketing expert Jonathan Wilson[9] and received over 10,000 signatures. The petition was featured on the front page of UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph.[10]

Kiyoe Yoshioka versionEdit

For the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the song was recorded by Japanese singer Kiyoe Yoshioka. This was also included on her debut solo album Utairo.[11][12]

ITV used a version recorded by Emeli Sandé for their 2019 World Cup coverage.[13]


World in Union features in the movie Invictus which is based on the events surrounding the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa. The original 1995 World Cup recording by PJ Powers and Ladysmith Black Mambazo is used at the end of the final match. A second recording made for the movie by Yollandi Nortjie and Overtone is played during the closing credits.


  1. ^ "Shirley Bassey And Bryn Terfel – World In Union". Official Charts Company. 1999-10-23. Retrieved 2011-09-18.
  2. ^ "World In Union (English): Hayley Westenra: MP3 Downloads". Retrieved 2012-01-12.
  3. ^ "World In Union (Māori): Hayley Westenra: MP3 Downloads". Retrieved 2012-01-12.
  4. ^ "Official RWC 2011 Site – Official RWC 2011 album launched". 2011-08-09. Retrieved 2011-09-18.
  5. ^ "World in Union :- The Rugby World Cup 2011 (The Official Album) – Various Artists". Marbecks. 2011-08-29. Retrieved 2011-09-18.
  6. ^ Herridge, Colin. "World in Union: Rugby World Cup, 2011– The Official Album: Various Artists: Music". Retrieved 2011-09-18.
  7. ^ "Classical Compilation Albums Archive". Official Charts Company. 2011-09-24. Retrieved 2012-02-12.
  8. ^ "On air | This Week's Top 40 – 24 September". Classic FM. Retrieved 2012-01-12.
  9. ^ "Rugby World Cup: fans petition ITV to replace 'truly awful' Paloma Faith theme music". 24 September 2015.
  10. ^ " – Connecting People Through News".
  11. ^ "Japanese star records Rugby World Cup 2019 anthem World in Union". Rugby World Cup. 26 September 2018. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  12. ^ "Yoshioka Kiyoe to sing official song for 'Rugby World Cup'". Tokyo Hive. 27 September 2018. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  13. ^ Burnton, Simon (26 September 2018). "Fuji hogs the horizon as ITV fails to park stereotypes but passes World Cup test". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 October 2019.

External linksEdit