Aus warned on haka high jinks

2010-09-10 08:19
Sydney - The Wallabies have been warned that disrespecting the All Blacks' haka could result in a fine from the International Rugby Board.

The ARU was recently forced to pay a £1000 ($1677) fine to Rugby World Cup Limited after the Wallaroos, Australia's women's rugby team, advanced on the Black Ferns mid-haka before their World Cup pool match in England last month.

Shortly after the match, won by New Zealand 32-5, the ARU received a letter from the Women's World Cup tournament director, based at the IRB headquarters in Dublin, explaining that the conduct of the Wallaroos was in breach of tournament rules.

The Australian women were found guilty of moving several metres towards the haka. IRB tournament rules dictated that the team facing the haka must stay at least 10 metres on its own side of the halfway line, but the Wallaroos made the mistake of walking beyond that line.

There was also a warning that if the fine wasn't paid, or if there were any repetition of such behaviour while the haka was being conducted, the ARU was liable to find itself at the centre of a misconduct case.

The Herald understands that there is no reference in the SANZAR tournament laws to player behaviour during the haka, but the warning is clear that in future IRB tournaments, such as next year's World Cup in New Zealand, the haka must be treated with respect.

It has been made clear by international rugby's ruling body that while New Zealand rugby teams lay down the challenge, opposition teams are expected to stand motionless and make no reaction.

This is far from the first time the haka has caused problems between the two teams.

The 1996 Wallabies upset many New Zealanders when before the Wellington Test they decided to turn their backs on the haka and instead warmed up at the other end of Athletic Park. The tactic, which did not have the full support of the Australian players that day but was driven by team management, didn't work as the Wallabies suffered their biggest loss to the All Blacks - a 43-6 thrashing.

In 2006, the then Wallabies coach John Connolly led a call for a ban on one version of the haka, which involved the New Zealand players making a gesture of throat-slitting. Connolly described the throat-slitting motion as irresponsible, with its ''murderous'' connotations sending the wrong message to society. All Blacks coach Graham Henry reacted by calling the Australian stance ''arrogant'' and ''pathetic''.

At least former Wallabies back-rower, Sam Scott-Young, took a more humorous approach in 1992 when he kissed and winked at his New Zealand opponents during the haka.



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