The All Blacks will go head-to-head against hosts France in Friday’s Rugby World Cup opener at the Stade de France in Paris.
New Zealand head coach Ian Foster said on Thursday that his side are “at peace” with however France react to the Haka in the Rugby World Cup’s opening game.
In the past, tournament hosts Les Bleus have chosen to reply in various ways to the war dance, including by meeting their opponents face to face and wearing t-shirts in the colours of the French flag in 2007.
“That’s their choice, historically they have (reacted) sometimes and not other times,” Foster told reporters before Friday’s match in Paris.
“We’re at peace with that. We’re happy for the opposition to respond however they want to respond to the Haka. One thing I do know is that they will respect it because they have a history of respecting the Haka,” he added.
Foster’s side head to the French capital on the back of last month’s record defeat to South Africa, but the coach played down the significance of that 35-7 reverse at Twickenham.
“I don’t think there’s a point to prove in relation to that game,” Foster said. “The only thing that matters is what we learn out of it and now we’re into a tournament. We’re going to be on a very big stage tomorrow.
“Then we’ll assess after that about how we progress in the tournament,” he added.
The All Blacks also face Namibia, Uruguay and Italy in Pool A.
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Foster seemed relaxed during the press conference, joking around with a pair of sunglasses and comparing himself to France counterpart Fabien Galthie, who wears thick-framed spectacles.
The 58-year-old insisted the pressure is on the hosts, who last lost at home in March 2021.
“It’s my third World Cup but I’ve never seen a build-up like this one,” Foster said. “It’s a home nation, who have strong expectations of winning it, their public have strong expectations of winning it.
“It’s well scripted,” he added.
The last time France organised the World Cup, in 2007, they surprisingly lost the first match to Argentina before they were beaten by England in the semi-finals, losing again to the Pumas in the third place play-off.
Their captain for those games was hooker Raphael Ibanez, now the side’s team manager.
“They’re subjects that have briefly been studied by the whole squad, the conclusion was that we don’t have many lessons from the past,” Ibanez said.
“History is for us to write, for this generation, this team.
“What counts is that we commit fully to this competition. It’s not a secret that we can’t wait to get going with this game,” he added.