England fined for V-shaped formation when facing the haka
World Rugby regulations state opponents must not cross halfway line during Haka
England face the Haka during the Rugby World Cup semi-final in Yokohama. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
World Rugby regulations state opponents must not cross the halfway line while the pre-match Maori war dance is being performed and six England players could be seen in breach of the ruling last Saturday. Eddie Jones was behind the idea to combat the haka and his captain, Owen Farrell, stood at the apex of the formation grinning while it was being performed. After the match, Farrell said: “We wanted not to just stand there and let them come at us.” Mako Vunipola added: “We knew it would rile them up”.
New Zealand dismissed the significance of the incident afterwards with their scrumhalf Aaron Smith also revealing Farrell was winking at him during the performance. But England dominated the early exchanges of the match with Manu Tuilagi opening the scoring with a try after 96 seconds.
It is believed England have been fined a four-figure sum, but less than the £2,500 that France had to pay when they adopted a similar formation before the 2011 World Cup final. On that occasion, almost all of the French squad advanced beyond the halfway line. World Rugby said on Tuesday “the matter had been dealt with”.
England’s response has been well received – including by World Rugby, which posted an official video of the incident on YouTube, entitled “England’s incredible response to intense New Zealand haka.” But the governing body was under pressure to act having introduced its “cultural ritual protocol” after France’s response to New Zealand’s haka in 2007. On that occasion the players ended up almost nose to nose with each other with the France squad forming a tricolour with red, white and blue T-shirts.