AUGUST 24 2010


The Australian women’s rugby team incur a £1,000 fine in their match against the Black Ferns at the World Cup today for advancing past their own 10 metre line while the Black Ferns performed the haka. An IRB regulation since 2008, for IRB tournaments, is that teams facing a haka or any similar challenge from any country are to respectully face it and not advance past their own 10 metre line.

 2011 Rugby Almanack “Chronicle of Events” p.321.

“The International Rugby Board (IRB) has confirmed that it will take a hardline stance on any team that breaks certain parameters when a nation performs a traditional haka.

The Black Ferns haka.

This will not only apply to the All Blacks haka, but the various challenges performed by the Pacific Island teams as well.

Recently the Wallaroos (the Australian women’s rugby team) was fined over US$2000 for moving too close to the Black Ferns while they performed their haka.

The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) paid the fine, after it was revealed by a Sydney newspaper that there was a clause in the IRB tournament rules that dictated that teams must face the haka, and remain 10 metres on their own side of the halfway line. For the record the Black Ferns won that pool match 32-5.

Senior IRB officials confirmed that the regulation was in place – and had been for some time – but the fine imposed on the ARU was the first time that formal action had been taken.

Throughout history, and especially in recent years, teams have challenged the haka performed by the All Blacks. The French have walked right up to the All Blacks and both teams were barely a metre apart while the haka was performed, and Wales recently stood their ground after the haka had concluded in Cardiff in what was an old school Mexican standoff. Other teams have turned their backs on it, players have formed a huddle against it, and even once the Tongan side started their version of the Kailao war dance, known as the Sipi Tau, midway through the All Blacks haka at Suncorp Stadium during the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

IRB chief executive Mike Miller told the Herald that teams cannot disrepect traditional aspects of a nation’s cultural heritage by reacting in certain ways to a haka or war dance, and that a harder stance will be taking by the game’s governing body in the future.

“It’s a traditional part of the game,” Miller said. “If people want to develop something – not a response, not a war dance, but a traditional sporting or cultural way of engendering that team spirit for a match – great. They should be able to and we should create the space to do it.” “It would be a shame if people said: ‘Let’s do away with it’ or felt the need to do some response that took away from the dignity and power of it.”

“There is the protocol that says let them have the space. We discuss it with everyone before. We say: ‘We are serious about this and that there is a fine’ if they do it. So they can’t say they didn’t know and most people respect that. These cultural parts of the game are important. We should respect them.”