By Mitch Phillips
TOKYO (Reuters) – England have been fined for their response to the haka before Saturday’s World Cup semi-final victory over New Zealand, despite All Blacks coach Steve Hansen describing their V-shaped formation as “brilliant” and “imaginative”.
England fanned out across the pitch as the All Blacks delivered the challenge, with several players who crossed the halfway line standing their ground when officials tried to usher them back.
World Rugby regulations stipulate opponents must not cross the halfway line while the haka is being performed. It did not disclose the size of the fine, which is to be donated to charity.
“England have been fined for a breach of World Cup tournament rules relating to cultural challenges, which states that no players from the team receiving the challenge may advance beyond the halfway line,” the sport’s governing body said in a statement.
“This is in line with the protocol which operates globally across the international game.”
In the 2011 tournament France were fined 2,500 pounds when they also advanced on the haka before the final.
Asked about England’s actions after the match, captain Owen Farrell said: “We didn’t just want to stand in a flat line and let them come at us.”
World Rugby’s Youtube video of the incident, titled “England’s incredible response to intense New Zealand haka” with a commentator saying “you want box office? You’ve got it”, has been viewed more than four million times.
New Zealand coach Hansen said on Wednesday he had no problems with England’s response.
“If you understand the haka, then the haka requires a response,” he said. “It is a challenge to you personally and it requires you to have a response.
“I thought it was brilliant and quite imaginative too.”
Fellow New Zealander Warren Gatland took a similar view, with the Wales coach calling it a “perfect response”.
“For them to do something like that is completely respectful as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “They didn’t turn their backs or anything like that. They stood there and received the haka.
“Ireland in Chicago a few years ago did a number eight in respect for Anthony Foley and other teams have done it in their own way.
“I was involved with the All Blacks against Ireland and Willie Anderson linked arms with everyone else and they marched forwards.
“After the match they were severely criticised by the press for how disrespectful that was. As All Blacks, no one mentioned a thing afterwards.”
The haka, he added, was a challenge to an opponent’s toughness and physicality.
“It’s important you don’t take a backward step and you respond respectfully. England did that.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)