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Thursday, October 7, 1999 Published at 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK

England receive 'Haka' warning

Richard Cockerill caused outrage in 1997

England have been threatened with disciplinary action if they disrupt the All Blacks' traditional 'Haka' before Saturday's match at Twickenham.

Hooker Richard Cockerill has been singled out for individual attention by the authorities, after he caused outrage two years ago by standing toe-to-toe with his opposite number, Norm Hewitt, during the Maori ritual at Old Trafford.

But the World Cup organisers have acted to avoid a similar controversy by writing to all the World Cup teams, urging them to show respect to their opponents.

[ image: The authorities want no repeat of last weekend's All Black's vs Tonga showdown]
The authorities want no repeat of last weekend's All Black's vs Tonga showdown
The warnings follow Sunday's match at Bristol where some of the Tongan players, performing their Polynesian war dance, confronted the All Blacks, forcing Welsh referee Derek Bevan to intervene.

A Rugby World Cup spokesman, said:"We have written to all the teams involved and warned them of disciplinary action if they break the rules."

Cockerill's provocation of Hewitt at Old Trafford was considered by many to have overstepped the boundaries of good sportsmanship - but the Leicester player disagrees.

"I believe that I did the right thing that day," he said. "They were throwing down a challenge and I showed them I was ready to accept it. I'm sure they would rather we did that than walk away."

'Swing low'

England have received confirmation that they may perform their traditional rugby song "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" before the game takes place.

The song had previously been turned down by World Cup organisers, after the RFU said they hoped to perform it after the Haka had taken place.

"The Haka has been part of a tradition for 100 years," a World Cup spokesman said. "You can't just suddenly manufacture things like that."

But World Cup officials have since climbed down, as long as the song is performed before the players run out.

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