Dane Coles raised his hand for the best one liner of the World Cup by bluntly assessing how England’s wealthy players will have no worries paying their fine for encroaching too far towards the haka.
World Rugby handed England a four-figure fine after several players – England prop Joe Marler the most prominent – pushed well beyond halfway as they split into a v-shaped formation to oppose the haka prior to their semifinal victory over the All Blacks in Yokohama last week.
Coles can always be relied on to deliver refreshing honesty, and he again stepped up when asked for his view of England’s punishment.
“They earn a shitload of money so they’ll be able to pay the fine,” Coles said with a chuckle. “They’re a pretty wealthy union so they can take the hit.
“I thought it was awesome, that’s what the haka is about, it’s a challenge. They walked forward. I know all the boys were pumped for it we were looking around like ‘let’s go’.
“From an All Blacks perspective we didn’t think it was bad. We thought it was awesome.”
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World Rugby have been accused of hypocrisy after labelling England’s response to the haka “incredible” on their social media channels, only to then turn around and fine the team.
Coles was more than happy for other teams to respond in similar fashion in future.
“Yeah, if they’re willing to pay the fine. Teams always do different things. We had no qualms with it they were accepting it. It’s a bigger matter than for us.”
Coles, the All Blacks and Hurricanes hooker was, however, indifferent about whether the response gave England a psychological edge by allowing them to start so well and score within the first two minutes.
“It’s probably easy to say that from the way the game panned out and they got the win. Not necessarily. With the haka we give it everything we’ve got then we come in and the haka is gone. We take a moment to take a breath and get everyone back on task. No one is going to win a game because they walk forward or because of 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 but hindsight is a beautiful thing isn’t it?”
Globally the haka is often misunderstood or misrepresented, primarily due to the lack of understanding around its many purposes within New Zealand culture.
Coles made it clear the All Blacks were aware of the regular critical feedback.
“It’s every year something seems to be said. It’s part of who we are as New Zealanders, it’s an identity thing. When people pay us out and say we shouldn’t be doing it 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 people say but it ain’t going anywhere.
“If you don’t like it, don’t watch it. It means a helluva lot to the All Blacks team.”
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen echoed Coles’ view around England’s formation which emulated France’s response in the 2011 World Cup final at Eden Park.
“I thought their response was fantastic,” Hansen said. “They didn’t get fined for responding for doing what they did, they got fined because they went over halfway. Everyone knows you’re not allowed to come over the halfway.
“You’ve got to get reality here. Joe didn’t go back when he got told two or three times. I thought the response was brilliant.
“If you understand the haka, the haka 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.”