France fined £2,500 for standing up to haka... to general disbelief

Richard Cockerill, who famously went head to head with war dance, amazed by IRB 'madness'

At least it brought a smile to the face of Richard Cockerill. It did rather more than that, in fact. Leicester Tigers' director of rugby had a job not falling off his chair in a laughing fit when he was informed after training yesterday that France had been fined £2,500 for having dared to front up to the haka before their 8-7 defeat against New Zealand in the World Cup final at Eden Park.

The reaction was pretty similar all around the oval-balled world on a day when the International Rugby Board seemed to be venturing to extreme lengths to have a belated last laugh on their quadrennial global knockout show. It was bizarre enough when the announcement was made that Wales had dropped two places in the governing body's world rankings, from sixth to eighth, despite having played a tour de force of a tournament in reaching the semi-finals. Then came news that the French had been hit in the pocket for crossing the line in both the metaphorical and literal sense as the hosts performed their traditional Maori war dance prior to kick-off on Sunday.

"It's madness, innit?" Cockerill said, after he had composed himself sufficiently to pass comment. It was, of course, the Rugby man – the former hooker from the hometown of the game – who gave the most celebrated response to a haka. Lining up for his first start for England, against the All Blacks at Old Trafford in November 1997, he crossed the halfway line and locked heads with his opposite number, Norm Hewitt. "Cockers, what the f*** have you done?" his unimpressed team-mate, Martin Johnson, said to him after the pair had been prised apart. Hewitt and the wound-up All Blacks exacted retribution over the course of the 80 minutes that followed, to the tune of a 25-8 victory. In Auckland last Sunday, the New Zealand crowd and the men dressed in black appeared to take the response of the French players, who formed a V-shaped formation and stepped in unison beyond their 10m line and over the halfway line, in the spirit in which it was intended – as a spirited gathering-up of the gauntlet laid down by the home side.

IRB regulations, however, stipulate that opposing teams must remain behind their 10m line. Australia were fined £1,000 for making a similar breach at the Women's World Cup last year.

"The haka is a great New Zealand tradition but I don't think the French were out of order," Cockerill said. "Fair play. I thought it was great theatre. Without turning it into a free-for-all, the opposition should be able to do whatever they want. I don't think it's an issue."

Darren Shand, New Zealand's team manager, was in agreement. "They came to play and that was great," he said. "The culture challenge is that. It should be done and then we get on with the real stuff."

There was much Gallic shoulder shrugging at the decision, naturally. "Thierry Dusautoir tried to stop them and there was a bit of movement bringing them forward," Marc Lièvremont, France's head coach said. "But a fine? I don't know." Dusautoir, the French captain and blindside flanker, maintained: "It was a great moment and a moment we will remember all of our lives. At one stage we were so close to them that they wanted to kiss the New Zealanders, but I told them to take it easy." Indeed, there was no need for a French kiss.

As for the IRB, it insisted it was playing it by the rules, saying in a statement: "As with other in-tournament breaches of the tournament cultural ritual protocol and as per pre-tournament communication with teams, Rugby World Cup Limited will impose the standard sanction of £2,500."

Cockerill himself was counting the cost of the World Cup yesterday – not just the five (out of six) Aviva Premiership matches lost by his weakened Tigers while 12 Leicester players were on international duty in New Zealand but a recurrence of the problem that forced Ben Youngs to have the cartilage in his left knee trimmed in June. The England scrum-half will be out of commission for his club's crucial fixture at Sale on Friday night.

"His knee's not great," Cockerill said. "He needs to do more rehab on it and at this point he's not fit to play."

Asked whether he felt Youngs' situation had been "mismanaged by England," Cockerill replied: "His knee's not in ideal condition. It probably hasn't been rehabbed as thoroughly as we would have. Our medical team feel that he's not at a sufficient level from a knee-strength point of view to be playing.

"For us, our player management and welfare is key. We spend a lot of time looking after our players and not playing them when they're unfit."

World's upside down: Wales slip to eighth

1. New Zealand 91.43

2. Australia 87.42

3. France 84.70

4. South Africa 84.34

5. England 81.58

6. Ireland 80.65

7. Argentina 80.28

8. Wales 80.18

9. Tonga 76.63

10. Scotland 76.20

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
United States President Barack Obama, right, uses actor Keegan-Michael Key from Key & Peele to play the part of 'Luther, President Obama's anger translator'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions