I’ve Been Involved A Few Times Where People Have Challenged The Haka!” – When France Confronted The All Blacks In 2007

Challenge accepted.

There’s a reason why big defeats for the mighty All Blacks are so memorable – they simply don’t lose all that often. Many have tried and many have failed, but when they do succeed, generally it takes something special.

We saw that with England at the 2019 Rugby World Cup and again last week with Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. But there’s one team that started it all and that’s France, who simply love playing against the three-time world champions.

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Back in 2007, New Zealand had assembled a squad that even to this day, probably won’t ever be matched. Richie McCaw, Doug Howlett, Chris Jack, Jerry Collins, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Joe Rokocoko, Conrad Smith, Dan Carter, Aaron Mauger, Carl Hayman, Ali Williams and Mils Muliaina – to name just a few. Some of the biggest names the game has ever seen.

But they were stunned at that Rugby World Cup, beaten 20-18 by France to go crashing out at the quarter-final stages. And it all started with an infamous confrontation when Les Blues decided to challenge the Haka. Nick Evans was in the New Zealand team that day, and I caught up with him to chat through that unforgettable game as the two sides prepare to lock horns once again this weekend.

“We were definitely the best team in the world, man for man,” Evans said of that incredible 2007 squad.

“I’ve been involved a few times where people have challenged the Haka. There’s the one where the Welsh just stood there and no one moved. There was the one where the Welsh… it always seems to be the Welsh! I was having a go at Adam Jones over this the other day, when they made us do it in the changing rooms, and that went well for them – put 40 points on them!

“And then the French are the other team that seem to get involved. And obviously, 2007 was the one where they got right up in our faces, and I think it was 2011 where they did the flying v. It was unreal.

“I remember lots of things from that day… probably the darkest day in a black jersey, well grey jersey, or whatever it was that we wore on that one! I remember the French not giving away a penalty in the second half which I thought was interesting! I remember a forward pass there somewhere too! But we won’t dwell on those things…

But Evans holds no grudges against the French, in fact – they’re his second favourite team!

“Look, it’s funny because people always ask me, ‘who’s your second favourite team?’ – and it’s actually the French,” Evans said.

I love the way they play and they grow an extra arm and a leg when they play the All Blacks, and I know it doesn’t happen all the time, but in big games, they tend to really front up.”

The Harlequins coach, however, feels an All Black backlash might just be too much for Antoine Dupont and his troops this weekend.

“I expect [France] to really front up this weekend but I’ve just got a sneaking suspicion that the All Blacks after last week are gonna be right on it,” Evans adds.

“And to go back to your original question [about whether or not the All Blacks have the right coaching ticket in place] – this could be a defining game because the reaction to a loss like that, albeit not a horrendous one, it’s not like they got beaten by 40 or 50 points, but it’ll be interesting to see how they’ve galvanised the squad and how they’re gonna bounce back.”

8pm on Saturday can’t come quick enough.

Nick Evans was speaking on behalf of Amazon Prime Video for its coverage of the Autumn Nations Series. To watch the Autumn Nations Series on Amazon Prime Video it costs £7.99 a month, while for new members there is a free 30-day trial.