IRB gets tough over haka confrontations
There will be no haka brouhaha at next year's Rugby World Cup – and that comes straight from the top.
The International Rugby Board has a strict rule regarding opposition behaviour when a haka is being performed – and they have shown they are prepared to make teams pay if they cross the line.
A Sydney newspaper report this week revealed that the Australian women's rugby team had copped a fine of over $2000 at the recent World Cup in London because they encroached too closely while the New Zealand team were performing their haka.
The New Zealanders went on to thump the Aussies 32-5 in their pool encounter.
It's understood the ARU paid the fine after discovering the fine print in IRB tournament rules that dictate teams facing the haka, or other similar pre-game cultural performances, must remain at least 10 metres on their own side of the halfway line.
Senior IRB officials in Sydney this week confirmed that the regulation had been in place for some time, but that from memory the fine instituted by the women's tournament boss had been the first occasion action had been taken.
The rule was put in place to prevent potential incendiary incidents between players caught up in the high emotion of the haka.
In the past opposing teams have reacted in a variety of ways to the All Black haka, including some instances of players standing nose to nose with their opposites at the end of it.
On other occasions players have gesticulated at the opponent during it and even formed a huddle and tried to ignore it.
Standard practice now, encouraged by the IRB, is for teams to stand at the agreed distance and face the challenge in the spirit with which it is intended.
The IRB confirmed that the New Zealand haka and the various challenges performed by the Pacific Island nations would be embraced as a key aspect of next year's World Cup.
While there have been calls from some quarters for the haka to be banned, the IRB believes fans regard the haka as a key feature of any match involving the All Blacks.
And for now they're doing everything they can to ensure that the haka retains its traditional place in the pre-game buildup when the All Blacks play.