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'At peace with it': What Ian Foster expects from France during the haka

By Finn Morton
All Black Captain Sam Cane leads the Haka during the Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and South Africa Springboks at Mt Smart Stadium on July 15, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Brett Phibbs-Pool/Getty Images)

Just before the All Blacks’ date with destiny in the 2011 Rugby World Cup final, France famously marched towards the haka as brothers-in-arms.


Led by captain Thierry Dusautoir, Les Bleus joined hands and edged closer to closer towards their New Zealand rivals at Eden Park.

Les Bleus accepted the challenge in a stunning way, and the passionate reaction set the tone for what promised to be an enthralling World Cup decider.

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That final didn’t disappoint, either.

New Zealand won a thriller by just one point, and ended 24 years of World Cup hurt as captain Richie McCaw hoisted the Webb Ellis Cup high in triumph. The drought, finally, was over.

But that pre-game reaction from France, as incredible as it was, wasn’t the first memorable moment shared between the rivals during the haka – it’s hard to look past 2007 as another eye-catching exchange.

On the eve of New Zealand’s clash with France in the opening Test of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, coach Ian Foster didn’t seem to be losing any sleep over another possible response from Les Bleus.

“I’m not sure, that’s their choice. Historically they have sometimes and not at other times,” Foster told reporters. “We are at peace with that, we’re happy for the opposition to respond how they want to the haka.


“For us, it is a special part of our legacy and who we are as a team, how we connect to each other and the past.

“We know they will respect it, they have a history of respecting it. The fact they may respond in different ways is not seen by us as a lack of respect.”

There will be an added sense of passion, intensity and potentially desperation from both teams on Friday night at Stade de France.

France are preparing for their first Rugby World Cup on home soil since 2007, and with that comes both pressure and expectation. This team is favoured by many to win it all in this tournament.


As for the All Blacks, they’re coming off a shocking loss to world champions South Africa at Twickenham a fortnight ago. The 35-7 result was their worst defeat in history

New Zealand have only lost one Test this year, but former France flanker Olivier Magne has sensationally labelled them as the “weakest” All Blacks team in history.

“To me, the big three of this World Cup is France, South Africa and Ireland,” Magne wrote in a column for Midi Olympique.


“I am especially worried about this New Zealand team.

“South Africa’s display against New Zealand is significant for the world of rugby.

“Now, isn’t this All Black team the weakest in history? I’m wondering. Really, I feel like New Zealand’s Rugby Championship wins were a bit of a sham.”

There’s plenty on the line. Neither team would have their World Cup dreams dashed with a loss, but a win is an idyllic start that sets the tone for the tournament – and it all starts with the haka.


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