Memo IRB: show a little respect, to the French that is

Ben Pobjie Columnist

By Ben Pobjie, Ben Pobjie is a Roar Expert

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    France advance on the All Blacks' haka

    France advance on the All Blacks' haka (EPA/Kim Ludbrook)

    You know, sports administrators get the rough end of the pineapple sometimes. There’s always a lot of criticism about how they made the wrong decision, pulled the wrong rein, got in bed with the wrong gaming conglomerate, rushed to the defence of the wrong pack rapist, etc.

    They cop it from all sides.

    So it’s important for us to acknowledge those times when sports administrators get it right, when they act in the best interests of the game and help advance the true spirit of sport through their common-sense decisions.

    This is why I burst into spontaneous applause when I found out the International Rugby Board had decided to fine the French rugby team for advancing too far towards the haka before the World Cup final.

    Finally, I thought, stuffed shirts earning their wage through decisive and righteous action.

    Because if we allow opposition teams to creep up close to the All Blacks while they perform their pre-game ritual, where does it end?

    Will opposition teams be allowed to make rude gestures during the New Zealand national anthem? Will sheep be released onto the field while Dan Carter lines up penalty kicks?

    Will Richie McCaw suddenly be expected to adhere to the rules of the game? It’s a slippery slope indeed.

    International rugby union is a fragile thing.

    The slightest disturbance could knock it off its balance and see it descend into the realm of novelty sports, alongside lingerie football and horse racing. It needs to be shielded from nefarious influences, like advancing team lines.

    The results could be catastrophic if the All Blacks were in any way inconvenienced while dancing. It would rend the very fabric of the international game.

    For New Zealand, with all its proud rugby history, is the heartbeat of the game, and if its hardest, toughest, most powerful exponents are not allowed to do their little dances in peace, the whole edifice could come crashing down.

    What if, during the French team’s heinous display of contempt, one of the All Black players had caught a glimpse of them, and lost his place in the shouting?

    What if one of them had been so distracted he’d forgotten whether to slap his thigh or perform a gesture indicating he planned to murder his opponent?

    he whole tournament would have become pointless. As Cyril Towers used to say: “The most important thing in rugby is not whether you win or lose, but whether your opponents are allowed to do a dance before the game without fear of annoyance”.

    Would you walk up and eyeball Paul Mercurio while he was dancing? No you would not. So why would you do it to Keven Mealamu? You might make the poor little mite cry.

    But look, I’m a reasonable man.

    I understand it can be difficult to find a way to occupy your time while the haka is going on. That’s why the Wallabies usually take the opportunity to eat a hearty meal and get good and drunk before playing.

    So I’m not just using my platform here to berate those who would harass good, decent, New Zealand dancers. I’m here to offer constructive suggestions as to better ways to spend the haka period.

    Like for example:

    * Bible study. To know Jesus is to know yourself – any international rugby squad could only benefit from sitting down in the in-goal and having a good natter about Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and what it says to us in the modern world.

    * A singalong. As far as I know, there is no prohibition in IRB rules against on-field guitars, so why not make one member of your team designated accompanist, and boost team morale with a good old singalong? Recommended songs for playing the All Blacks include “Amazing Grace”, “For Those In Peril On The Sea”, and “Loser”.

    * Hold your own dance. The Abs are dancing, why not do your own dance? Because you’ll look like a tool? Well, yes, good point.

    * Arts and crafts. Don’t let your hands lie idle. Use this precious downtime to paint a picture, make some macaroni art, or construct a diorama out of toilet paper rolls and pipe-cleaners!

    * Take a nice relaxing bath. A relaxed team is a happy team – while the kiwis do their thing, why not duck into the dressing rooms, light some candles, and luxuriate in some scented bubbles?

    * Leave and go home. There’s probably something good on TV.

    You see? This time while your opponents dance and yell doesn’t have to be wasted.

    Find constructive ways to spend the lull between anthems and kick-off, and everyone can enjoy the next All Black clash, without the need for unpleasant displays of team solidarity or distressing distractions from the main event.

    After all, rugby without the haka is just … well, rugby. And I hardly think that’s what the crowds at rugby games come to see.

    Ben Pobjie
    Ben Pobjie

    Ben Pobjie is a writer & comedian writing on The Age, New Matilda and The Roar, whose promising rugby career was tragically cut short the day he stopped playing rugby and had a pizza instead. The most he has ever cried was the day Balmain lost the 1989 grand final. Today he enjoys watching Wallabies, Swans, baggy greens, and Storms.

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    The Crowd Says (39)

    • October 27th 2011 @ 7:38am
      Adams said | October 27th 2011 @ 7:38am | ! Report

      Lingerie football is a serious sport that deserves both more coverage and more respect, …err less coverage…ahhh you know what I mean!
      Where is our Lingerie Rugby?

      • Columnist

        October 27th 2011 @ 9:42am
        Ben Pobjie said | October 27th 2011 @ 9:42am | ! Report

        Yes! We DEMAND to see Radike Samo in a bra!

    • October 27th 2011 @ 8:00am
      Jerry said | October 27th 2011 @ 8:00am | ! Report

      Quick question – amongst all this righteous anger at the huge injustice done to the French, have they once actually complained about the fine themselves?

      • October 27th 2011 @ 8:48am
        Chris said | October 27th 2011 @ 8:48am | ! Report

        No, but the All Blacks did.

    • October 27th 2011 @ 8:55am
      Snobby Deans said | October 27th 2011 @ 8:55am | ! Report

      How does this Ben Pobjie character get deemed to be an “expert” if this is the quality of article written? Complete and utter waste of everyone’s time.

      Franch performed a response to the Haka.
      All Blacks loved it – no-one complained.
      The French response contravened the IRB rules (note: nothing to do with the All Blacks) and got fined.
      French have said nothing; All Blacks not happy with the fine
      Conclusion: IRB enforcing their rules is not that big a deal, but it seems a silly rule (even more so than the mouthgard fines)

      Are there not other rugby-related issues that are more worthy of your”expertise” than this, Ben Pobjie?

      • Columnist

        October 27th 2011 @ 9:40am
        Ben Pobjie said | October 27th 2011 @ 9:40am | ! Report

        Snobby, you misspelled “French” – your argument is invalid.

        • October 27th 2011 @ 11:23am
          Jokerman said | October 27th 2011 @ 11:23am | ! Report

          Funny Ben, nice response 🙂

        • Roar Guru

          October 27th 2011 @ 12:02pm
          Cattledog said | October 27th 2011 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

          No he didn’t! he misspelt France! Your response is invalid, Ben, until YOU get it right 😉

          • Columnist

            October 27th 2011 @ 1:29pm
            Ben Pobjie said | October 27th 2011 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

            I feel we need a serious IRB inquiry into which word Snobby misspelled. Until this issue is resolved we cannot move forward.

            • Roar Guru

              October 27th 2011 @ 2:08pm
              Cattledog said | October 27th 2011 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

              You’re absolutely right. Must certainly come before any investigation into the Haka, referees, scrum laws…which are of minor significance when compared…

        • October 27th 2011 @ 2:59pm
          Oakie said | October 27th 2011 @ 2:59pm | ! Report

          Chuckle chuckle Ben.

        • October 27th 2011 @ 10:32pm
          p.Tah said | October 27th 2011 @ 10:32pm | ! Report

          Too funny

    • October 27th 2011 @ 10:30am
      Happy Hooker said | October 27th 2011 @ 10:30am | ! Report

      The French very deliberately breached the guidelines. For all we know, they may even asked the IRB beforehand what the fine would be! They knew what they were doing, and just because we all enjoyed it, doesn’t mean the IRB shouldn’t fine them. If they didn’t fine them, then a team might get even closer next time. And, the IRB would look bigger jokes than they already do.

      To understand why there are regulations requiring teams to stay on each side of their own 10m lines, search YouTube for “Cook Islands v NZ Maori Haka”

      • October 27th 2011 @ 11:33am
        beyond the stump said | October 27th 2011 @ 11:33am | ! Report

        I hadn’t seen that before and I would sincerely hope that this wouldn’t happen at the highest professional level however I think it sums up the rule really doesn’t it? thanks for sharing it HH

    • October 27th 2011 @ 11:22am
      Mike said | October 27th 2011 @ 11:22am | ! Report

      Everyone knows the rules about the Haka – been in place for years and sensible ones too – so if you breach them – expect the penalty and tough luck!

      How would the French have feeled if during their national anthem – the ABs stated advancing on them etc?

      • Roar Guru

        October 27th 2011 @ 12:19pm
        Cattledog said | October 27th 2011 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

        Mike, tell me why you think the rules governing the Haka are sensible? For my mind, they’re ridiculous.

        This is a contact sport. Collisions are immense and you have a number of officials overseeing that things don’t get out of hand. Why should the Haka be any different? They want to perform the Haka, the opposition should be able to take whatever action they feel appropriate, barring physical contact.

        The officials have the necessary power to take action if an inappropriate response is shown (such as physically manhandling). Perhaps this will lead to the more appropriate situation where the Haka isn’t performed and the teams just get on with the game.

        I had penned an article some time back that the Haka is now overused and perhaps it’s time it’s kicked into touch. That outlook hasn’t changed, but to expect a team to just stand there and suck it up, then that’s significantly wrong. And as for the throat slitting gesture being sucking the breath out of you…yeah right! Culturally that may be the case but physically, it’s anything but!

        • October 27th 2011 @ 12:40pm
          Adams said | October 27th 2011 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

          I’m all haka’d out Cattledog. It should be reserved for the first game of a team tourning to NZ.
          Or, better yet, performed by the AB’s at the airport when the touring team lands. And never be performed by a tourning NZ team.

          • October 27th 2011 @ 10:40pm
            p.Tah said | October 27th 2011 @ 10:40pm | ! Report

            Have to admit I’m all Kaka’ed out too. School kids, flash mobs, dancing ginger bread men. It’s exhausting. More is less. Stop the over exposure.

            But I’ll probably be ready for it again by time the next Bledisloe is on.

            • October 27th 2011 @ 10:47pm
              p.Tah said | October 27th 2011 @ 10:47pm | ! Report

              I think I meant Haka’ed… I’ve obviously been changing too many nappies.

        • October 27th 2011 @ 1:00pm
          WQ said | October 27th 2011 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

          Once again the over powering desire from All Black haters to provide negative feedback about every aspect of their Rugby, blinds them of reality!
          Hear this loud and clear, the All Blacks nor the NZRU had nothing to do with the making of this rule.
          The All Blacks have no issue with how any Team responds to the Haka as they have proven over many years. In fact if opposition Teams wish to challenge the Haka by advancing on it I am almost sure this works even better for the All Blacks.
          If you really want to look for the origins of this pathetic rule you only need to look in the mirror Cattledog. It is whingers like you complaining about the Haka that forced the IRB to create the Rule.
          Get over it

          • Roar Guru

            October 27th 2011 @ 2:23pm
            Cattledog said | October 27th 2011 @ 2:23pm | ! Report

            Mate, I made a valid point regarding the Haka in reply to another post. I am not an All Black hater at all and was in fact one of the first to congratulate them and admire them for their consistency, on this site. That aside, the same can’t be said for some of their supporters, such as yourself, who takes all opportunities to continually beguile and belittle any suggestion that may go against the grain of everything and anything All Black.

            I don’t need to look in any mirror. Perhaps if the raucous minority of Kiwi posters on this site such as yourself learnt some form of analysis before committing their misguided thoughts to script, we wouldn’t be forced to read the tripe you keep inflicting us with.

            • October 27th 2011 @ 6:45pm
              WQ said | October 27th 2011 @ 6:45pm | ! Report

              Cattledog any request to “kick the Haka into touch” is not a valid point!
              Why do you think that all host nations grant permission for the Haka to be performed prior to kick off?
              Because they know that the overwhelming majority of their paying public not only like it it, but look forward to it.
              Of course there are a minority, whom all seem to live on the Roar, that don’t. For them the IRB have made some pathetic rules that apply to everybody.
              Moaman put up a post the other day that hits the nail on the head. His thoughts were that all the whingers and detractors of the Haka should get off their a**e and send a petition asking the ARU to tell the All Blacks that they can’t perform the Haka before the next Test Match on Australian soil.
              So stop wasting your time moaning about the Haka on the Roar and do something about it!

              • Roar Guru

                October 27th 2011 @ 8:37pm
                Cattledog said | October 27th 2011 @ 8:37pm | ! Report

                Seems we agree on one thing then, WQ, that the IRB rules governing the Haka are pathetic.

        • October 27th 2011 @ 4:10pm
          Kuruki said | October 27th 2011 @ 4:10pm | ! Report

          So Cattledog.. What exactly are these ridiculous rules governing the Haka that you speak of?. As far as i know there is only one rule, and that is the opposing team must remain on there side of the line. This rule is also in place for the All Blacks.
          What they choose to do on there own side of the line is up to them, nobody is forcing them to stand and face the Haka, if they wish to run around and warm up or move into position to start the game, then they are allowed to do so.
          Who has the right to tell New Zealand that they may not perform a Haka before a match?. Does that give New Zealand the right to ban other nations anthems when they tour New Zealand?.
          Just because one of your own withdrew your rendition of Waltzing Matilda does not mean we all feel the same way about our traditions.

          • Roar Guru

            October 27th 2011 @ 4:22pm
            Cattledog said | October 27th 2011 @ 4:22pm | ! Report

            You got it in one, Kuruki! Surprising…

      • October 27th 2011 @ 2:56pm
        Justin said | October 27th 2011 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

        Mike – quite simply the NZers could advance on the French during their anthem. Only one has a haka so the point is moot.

    • October 27th 2011 @ 11:41am
      Grahame said | October 27th 2011 @ 11:41am | ! Report

      What a sore loser Ben! “Will Richie McCaw suddenly be expected to adhere to the rules of the game?” That’s dirty. Why don’t you could have substituted Pocock for McCaw?

      As a Kiwi, I myself have little time for the cannibalistic haka ritual. It’s overdone but its been there in All Black games for over 100 years. They should save it, like the Sevens, to the end of the tournament. So often the All Blacks are buggered for the next 10 minutes after the haka; their minds are not on the job -except when they play the Wallabies as we witnessed.

      If you can’t beat them, then join them. The Wallabies could sit in a circle around a “billabong” playing on their didgeridoos!

      • October 27th 2011 @ 12:50pm
        WQ said | October 27th 2011 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

        Great point Grahame it was Pocock penalised out of games throughout the RWC for cheating not McCaw.
        Quite simply any comments to the contrary are dribble!

        • Columnist

          October 27th 2011 @ 1:30pm
          Ben Pobjie said | October 27th 2011 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

          Yes. Pocock was penalised. McCaw wasn’t. Indeed. Funny that.

        • October 27th 2011 @ 2:30pm
          jameswm said | October 27th 2011 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

          Yes WQ, Pocock was completely penalised out the the SA game, and wasn’t a factor.

      • Columnist

        October 27th 2011 @ 1:36pm
        Ben Pobjie said | October 27th 2011 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

        I mainly didn’t substitute Pocock for McCaw because Pocock doesn’t play for New Zealand as far as I know. Happy to consider evidence to the contrary.

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