New Zealand hooker Dane Coles defended England’s ‘V-formation’ response to the All Blacks haka before the World Cup semi-final, joking that the RFU “earn a shitload of money so they’ll be able to pay the fine.”
Coles added: They’re a pretty wealthy union so they can take the hit.”
England were hit with a fine from World Rugby — understood to be £2,000 (€2,314) that will be donated to the Typhoon Hagibis Relief Fund — for advancing beyond the half-way line when confronting the Maori war dance.
But Coles had no issue with England’s actions.
“I thought it was awesome, that’s what the haka is about, it’s a challenge. They walked forward. I know all the boys were pumped for it we were looking around like ‘let’s go’.
“From an All Blacks perspective we didn’t think it was bad. We thought it was awesome.”
The riposte 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.
“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 (€2,892) fine as a result.
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 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.”