This is a slight break from the usual data-driven approach. But, since data is driven by facts – and we need a few good facts, this is a topical response to something that affects our industry.
During the Rugby World Cup semi-final between England and New Zealand, Eddie Jones’ men responded to the haka challenge by forming a “V” shape on the field.
England won 19-7 and will play South Africa in the final over the weekend.
The response was largely praised – with several pundits familiar with the cultural intricacies of saying that it was in no way offensive to the All Blacks side, and did not violate Māori cultural protocol, known as tikangam, as reported by The Guardian.
England’s Mako Vunipola said afterwards: “We knew it would rile them up”.
Even World Rugby seemingly embrace the response, with the snippet of exchange racking up millions of views on their YouTube platform.
But World Rugby does have a few rules when it comes to responding to the challenge.
Regulations state that opponents must stay in their own half of the pitch while the haka is performed.
This much was evident when referee Nigel Owens and his team were ushering a number of England players back behind the line.
On Wednesday, it was reported that England had been fined. World Rugby was quoted by the BBC as saying England breached tournament rules “relating to cultural challenges”.
And yet, many reports and headlines would make you believe that the fine related to the V-shape itself – rather than crossing the halfway line.
In fact, even before the fine was confirmed, players knew that they might be fined.
“[Joe Marler] said he got confused,” Vunipola said afterwards. “He thought he was supposed to go all the way around it and go to their 10. But because of that, he’s the one who has to pay the fine. He dishes it out a lot so the boys would be more than happy if he has to pay it.”
England will donate the fine to charity – reported being less than the £2500 France had to pay for taking a similar approach ahead of the 2011 final. They were fined for the same reasons.
According to the BBC:
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen said he thought England’s response to the haka was “fantastic”, adding: “They didn’t get fined for responding, they got fined because they went over halfway.
“If you understand the haka then 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.”
Why the difference matters
This isn’t about whether there is merit to the fine for crossing the line or not (that’s a different discussion). Rather, it’s about information constipation that far too often leads to hysterical outrage when there is room for nuance. It’s also about facts.
The fact is the V-shape wasn’t a problem.