England are facing sanction from World Rugby following their unique response to the All Blacks’ haka before their semi-final clash in Yokohama last Saturday.
As the All Blacks lined up for their traditional pre-game haka, the English players spread out to form a reverse V-shaped triangle. Officials told them to retreat when they moved too close to New Zealand, in what is being regarded as a violation of ‘cultural ritual protocol’.
England’s players later revealed that coach Eddie Jones was behind the plan to counter the All Blacks’ traditional Maori challenge in order to show they were ‘ready for anything’.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 26, 2019
Mako Vunipola admitted that ‘we knew it would rile them up’, while captain Owen Farrell, who could be seen smirking during the haka, said: ‘We wanted not to just stand there and let them come at us.’
It is understood that protocol states opponents must not cross the halfway line but at the two tips of England’s V formation, six players – Joe Marler, Billy Vunipola, Mark Wilson, Elliot Daly, Luke Cowan‑Dickie and Ben Youngs – appeared to be standing in the All Blacks’ half.
Match officials could be seen trying to encourage the players to return to their own half, but to no avail. It is believed World Rugby will consider on Monday whether any punishment is warranted. But, given the precedent set with France who did something similar eight years ago, it would be surprising if England were not sanctioned accordingly.
There was also a complaint from All Blacks scrumhalf Aaron Smith, who said afterwards that Farrell was winking at him while the haka was being performed.
Owen Farrell, what a bloke. THAT SMIRK pic.twitter.com/RIrXJ1bCcn
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‘Joe Marler said he got confused,’ Mako Vunipola explained. ‘He thought he was supposed to go all the way around it and go to their 10. But because of that, he’s the one who has to pay the fine. He dishes it out a lot, so the boys would be more than happy if he has to pay it.’
The All Blacks were eliminated after losing 19-7 to England.
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