Rugby experts have condemned the IRB's decision to fine France $4900 for advancing toward the All Blacks' haka at the World Cup final, calling it ''pedantic'' and the ''final insult''.
It was confirmed yesterday that the International Rugby Board (IRB) had fined France because they breached a regulation on how the haka should be faced, introduced after previous confrontations.
The fine came despite IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset acknowledging the wildly popular response to the challenge was ''not an aggressive response'', and the All Blacks saying France should not be fined.
Former All Black and World Cup winner Alan ''AJ'' Whetton said it was another sign of the IRB getting ''a wee bit too pedantic'' about its role in international rugby.
''There's something called protocol but sometimes there's also something called common sense,'' he said. ''What bearing did it have on the game? Absolutely nothing. It was bloody irrelevant. There was no harm done in my point of view and I thought it added a bit of spice, really.''
Barney Ronay, writing in Britain's Guardian newspaper said: ''It seems that the haka, the world's most famous sporting war dance, is still an unapproachably hot potato: albeit the most tediously touchy of hot potatoes, a potato warmed by its own portable fug of cultural confrontationalism.''
Ronay said even the New Zealand team manager, Darren Shand, was among those who had expressed unease about the fine.
''But still the International Rugby Board seems intent on putting about the idea that the only appropriate response is to stand looking vaguely interested, like bum-bagged tourists on a stroll around the Maori museum rugby experience.
''Getting rid of the haka isn't an option. Nobody wants that. But getting rid of the po-faced and rather precious ringfencing of its sole right to offer a pre-match challenge can only be a good thing. Why not just take the brakes off and offer the Maori war dance the ultimate compliment of taking it at face value, as a challenge that is there to be met in whatever way its opponents can muster.
''Fining France simply for walking along in a line, while opposite them their opponents are miming acts of terrible corporeal violence, just makes the whole spectacle look a little silly,'' Ronay said.
Britain's The Daily Mail dubbed the fine the ''final insult'' while in France the newspapers L'Equipe and the Le Monde both highlighted captain Thierry Dusautoir's reasoning for the V-shaped advance.
"It was a great moment and a moment we will remember all our lives," Dusautoir said after the match.
- Stuff and Sydney Morning Herald
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