# Challenge
'They earn a sh*tload of money, so they're able to pay the fines'
The All Blacks insist they had no issues with England’s response to their haka last weekend.

THE ALL BLACKS say they had no issue with England’s response to their haka before last weekend’s World Cup semi-final.

Eddie Jones’ team have been fined what is believed to be a sum of €2,300 for encroaching into New Zealand’s half during the haka at International Stadium Yokohama last Saturday.

Advancing over the halfway line during the haka is prohibited by World Rugby.

japan-rugby-wcup-new-zealand-england 立川悠平 England's reponse to the haka. 立川悠平

Speaking today at the All Blacks’ team hotel in Tokyo ahead of their bronze final against Wales on Friday, hooker Dane Coles couldn’t resist a joke about the financial might of the English but he insisted the Kiwis had had no issue with England’s actions.

“They earn a shitload of money, so they’re able to pay the fines,” said Coles. “They’re a pretty wealthy union so I’d take the hit. From an All Blacks perspective, we didn’t think it was bad, we thought it was awesome.

“That’s what a haka is about, it’s about a challenge and they walked forward. I thought it was good, I know all the boys were pretty pumped for it. We were all looking around and going, ‘Let’s go’.”

Head coach Steve Hansen was similarly impressed by what England did.

“I think their response was fantastic,” said Hansen. “They didn’t get fined for responding with what they did, they got fined because they went over the halfway. And everyone knows you can’t go over the halfway.

“Joe [Marler] didn’t go back when he got told two or three times. I thought the response was brilliant. If you understand the haka, it requires a response.

“It’s a challenge to you personally and it requires you to have a response. I thought it was brilliant, quite imaginative too.”

maro-itoje-watches-the-haka James Crombie / INPHO Maro Itoje stares down the haka. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Scrum-half Brad Weber echoed Coles and Hansen’s sentiments.

“I didn’t have any qualms with it, I was fine with what they did. I didn’t see it as disrespectful or anything so they can do whatever they like, but the haka is about us, it’s not about them,” said Weber.

“It’s about us connecting with our people, with each other, it’s not so much about the opposition.”

Coles said he didn’t believe that the English had gained an advantage with their response to the haka.

“Not necessarily,” said the hooker. “It’s probably easier to say that because of the way the game played out and they got the win.

“With the haka, we give it everything we’ve got then we come in and the haka’s gone. We take a moment to get our breath back, get everyone back on task, but nobody is going to win a game because they walked forward or how powerful the haka was – it’s about what happens on that rugby pitch for 80 minutes.

“Personally, I don’t think it gave them an extra edge.”

England’s fine has once again kick-started the debate about whether the All Blacks should even be allowed to do the haka before games, particularly if the opposition are punished for their response.

the-haka James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Coles defend the haka, however, and stressed its importance to New Zealand.

“It’s part of New Zealanders, it’s an identity thing,” said Coles. “When people pay us out, they don’t understand the history of the haka, the history of the All Blacks and the history of New Zealand.

“We love doing it and I wish people would understand that. Even people at home give us stick about the haka. We can’t control what people think and what they say but it ain’t going anywhere. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.

“It’s part of an All Black identity, it’s part of New Zealand culture. We love it, we love doing it for the challenge, we love doing it to represent New Zealand and our people. It means a hell of a lot to this All Blacks team, any All Blacks team.”

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