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England punished for response to Haka in Rugby World Cup semi-final

The fine is understood to be £2,000.

New Zealand perform the Haka before the England game (Adam Davy/PA)
New Zealand perform the Haka before the England game (Adam Davy/PA)

By Duncan Bech, PA England Rugby Correspondent, Tokyo

England have been fined for advancing beyond the half-way line when confronting the Haka before Saturday’s stunning 19-7 World Cup semi-final victory over New Zealand.

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Owen Farrell and his team-mates formed a V shape to face the Maori war dance but several players at the tips of the formation strayed beyond the boundaries established under World Rugby regulations.

The fine, which the PA news agency understands is £2,000, will be donated to the global governing body’s official charity.

England’s riposte to the Haka was a symbolic piece of sporting theatre that set the tone for a remarkable performance in which the world champions were overwhelmed from start to finish.

It was approvingly received across the game and, as one of the defining images of the tournament, was heavily promoted on the World Cup’s own social media channels, yet World Rugby were compelled to act.

“England have been fined for a breach of World Cup 2019 rules relating to cultural challenges, which states that no players from the team receiving the challenge may advance beyond the halfway line,” a statement read.

“This is in line with the protocol which operates globally across the international game and is adopted by major international tournaments.

“All fines issued at the 2019 World Cup are being donated to World Rugby’s official charitable programme, ChildFund Pass It Back, which is transforming the lives of more than 25,000 disadvantaged children in Asia.

“The matter is closed and World Rugby will not make further comment.”

The rule is in place in order to avoid any potential clash of players and at the time referee Nigel Owens and his assistants instructed the wandering England stars to retreat behind the halfway line.

A precedent for World Rugby’s act was set eight years ago when France formed an arrowhead shape to advance on New Zealand as they performed the Haka before their World Cup final in Auckland and received a £2,500 fine as a result.

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France made the same gesture in 2015 against New Zealand (Andrew Matthews/PA)

However, England’s bold plan to stare down the famous All Blacks ritual devised by their head coach Eddie Jones has gone viral.

As of October 26, the World Cup’s YouTube video titled ‘England’s incredible response to intense New Zealand Haka’ has been viewed a staggering 4,118,515 times.

It is also features in their five memorable moments from the semi-finals footage.

England knew their challenge to the Haka at International Stadium Yokohama had the potential to provoke New Zealand, but Mako Vunipola stated it was important to lay down a marker.

We knew it would rile them up, it probably felt like we disrespected them

“We wanted to be respectful but we wanted to also make sure that they understood that we would be ready for the fight,” Vunipola said.

“We just knew that we had to back it up. There have been a few times in the past when the All Blacks have had that done to them but then blown the opposition away.

“We put accountability on ourselves to back it up and I thought we did. We knew it would rile them up, it probably felt like we disrespected them.

“We meant no offence by it, we just wanted to let them know that we were ready for the challenge ahead. And they let us know in the first couple of contacts.”

Farrell, who smirked at the All Blacks during the Haka, revealed that England’s formation was carefully thought out.

“We knew we had to be within a radius behind them. We didn’t want to just stand there and let them come at us,” Farrell said.

“We wanted to keep a respectful distance and be respectful of that. We didn’t want to just stand in a flat line, letting them come at us.”

England face South Africa in Saturday’s World Cup final at International Stadium Yokohama.

PA

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