World Cup organisers have apologised for the delay to the opening ceremony caused by a malfunctioning public address system in Newcastle.
Ricky Wilson, frontman of silenced rock band The Kaiser Chiefs, tried to offer some alternative entertainment by sprinting up and down the touchline at St James’ Park before the opening game in which England beat Samoa 60-6 in front of 43,119.
BBC pundit Jon Wilkin, the ex-England international, said: “You can say it’s funny – but it’s not.
“I wonder, at the Olympics, would you chuck the opening ceremony before the 100m final?”
The Kaiser Chiefs got through one song, ironically given what was to follow, ‘Oh My God (I Can’t Believe It)’, their 2004 hit.
They had been due to sing another hit song, ‘Ruby’, when the power went off.
The debacle came in for strong critical comment on social media from supporters and other TV watchers, with BBC rugby union commentator Brian Moore tweeting: “RL Worls (sic) Cup opener – come on guys, this is amateur hour.”
In a statement, the organisers said: “RLWC2021 would like to sincerely apologise for the disrupted tournament welcome, which was severely affected by technical failure.
“It wasn’t the start we wanted, but we would like to thank fans for their patience and for continuing to celebrate the teams and the tournament.”
RLWC Chief Executive Jon Dutton admitted that the faulty PA system was embarrassing for the organisers, although the host football club, Newcastle United, weren’t responsible. The World Cup team had contracted an independent company to provide the sound system.
Earlier, former Leeds and England scrum-half Rob Burrow received a rousing reception from fans as he launched the tournament.
The 40-year-old, who has motor neurone disease, was in the main stand with his parents to watch the parade of flags representing all 32 teams across the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions.
Former Great Britain scrum-half Andy Gregory was the England flag bearer.
The three World Cup trophies were also brought out by six tournament ambassadors.
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