Haka or no Haka…

Wales apparently continued the PsyOps last Saturday (to little avail) when they made the All Blacks perform the Haika between the anthems rather than after both have been played. This, according to Tana Umaga the New Zealand captain, was disrespectful to Maori tradition. This from the guy who creamed Brian O’Driscoll out of the game of rugby within 90 seconds of the first Haka of the Lions tour in the summer.

This is not the first time that New Zealand have moaned. During the summer, Brian O’Driscoll, the Lions captain, also got it wrong, apparently. The Irishman had consulted a Maori elder as to the appropriate protocol in accepting the Maori challenge. O’Driscoll followed the elder’s instructions but was accused afterwards of “insulting” the All Blacks’ haka. New Zealand, I fancy, protest too much. If the haka and its correctness arouses so much sensitivity and acrimony, perhaps it is time, sadly, to disregard it altogether. If New Zealand players seek respect for its performance, they must recognise that to be allowed to perform the haka is a privilege bestowed and conversely, I assume, it can be taken away.

No one in rugby wants that. But:

While the haka may once have been appreciated as a celebration of national identity and representing a unique heritage, in recent years it has been transformed into psychological sabre-rattling, which the All Blacks clearly think is their right to perform for their advantage as they think fit. It was once played facing the crowd in a line; now they defiantly face the players. They should consider that this is a privilege accorded only to them and the other Pacific islanders.

O’Driscoll in his recent book complained that the New Zealanders take rugby way too seriously. There was dark underlay to the atmosphere off the park during the last tour, which, given his warm and pleasant experiences of touring there on previous occasions, took him by surprise. Maybe it was some perceived slight over the Haka incident. Or maybe it was stifled embarassment at that unpunished (and certainly) highly illegal and potentially life threatening tackle.

Ireland play the All Blacks tomorrow in Landsdowne Road. For them, the O’Driscoll incident should be put to the back of the player’s minds and, instead they must concentrate on competiting with one of the world’s most talented teams. An upset seems unlikely (we’ve never beaten them). Our own talented squad last season was full of promise, but offered little in the way of delivery. Tomorrow could offer them a means of redeeming themselves by testing the New Zealanders closely.

Maybe (as one friend suggested) they should simply keep their track suits on during the ceremony and take them off afterwards – to let the Kiwi blood cool a little. But regardless of the state of mind of the Kiwis, when the whistle blows the Irish will need to find that extra yard of pace that ultimately left O’Driscoll vulnerable to one of the modern games most disgraceful episodes.

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

  • Apparently, the reason that the Welsh national anthem was played after the Haka last week was to commermorate events at the 1905 international game – it being the Centenary match.

    At that time, no national anthems were played before games but on seeing the Haka, the Welsh crowd spontaneously sang their own anthem in response to it.

    This is supposedly where the tradition of anthems before international games, in all sports, derives from.

  • Wallabies legend David Campese used to practice his place kicks during the Haka. Maybe Ronan O’Gara should do the same.

  • esmereldavillalobos

    Mick, I think that’s all very fair and reasonable. I shall now give the opposite view. Umaga is probably not going to play but this won’t matter. Revenge should be painful as well as cold. I hope the boys in green remember why their captain isn’t playing and react appropriately. They must “stand up” to the Kiwis, eye for eye, spear tackle for clothes line, gouge for gouge. Get in there first. They won’t like it up ’em. So we lose, big deal! If they fight for the jersey and the team, the New Zealanders won’t forget their trip to Dublin and the hardest (dirtiest?) game on this tour. I don’t think I’ve ever been angrier prior to a rugby international – baying for blood!

  • The Lush


    I think we are fecked on this on. But it should make for good viewing. Tryed to get tickets, but no Joy. Any of ye got tickets.

  • APW

    The Haka is an interesting and colourful aspect of international rugby union. It has also been very much used (and according to Gerald Davies in this article) abused by the All Blacks over the years for psychological advantage.

    Anybody who has played rugby knows that getting psyched up before a game is very important and the ABs have a ready made weapon of intimidation which they use to great effect. It is up to the opposition to react to in a way that demotivates the ABs.

    The best ever response to the Haka was, in my opinion, the almost surreal performance of Willie Anderson’s Ireland team in 1989. As Buck Shelford lead the Haka, Willie led a phalanx of the team with fellow Ulsterman Dave Irwin to the fore in advancing, arms interlinked, chanting ‘attack, attack, attack’ towards the Blacks until several players were nose to nose screaming at each other. When the Haka was over the Irish team then turned to the home crowd raised their arms and whipped them into a frenzy.

    When the kickoff occurred, the entire Irish pack used Shelford as a doormat as they chased the kick. The game had to be stopped while he had treatment for several minutes. I remember watching this on telly in Coleraine Rugby Club after a junior league match for Larne, and the atmosphere was electric.

    Afterwards Shelford was quoted as saying that the Haka was a challenge and the Irish had shown they were accepting the challenge, which was more respectful than the Welsh who a week before had turned their backs and huddled in their own ’22. However the BBC’s po faced Chris Rea said that the charge on the Haka was an act of gross discourtesy which should never be repeated. Obviously I kept the match on video, which is why I remember this.

    Ireland should try it again tomorrow!

  • stu

    Love a wee bit of the oul rugby. Poor performance from Wales last week; hopefully we can do better. I agree that since the Haka is throwing down the gauntlet, the Irish team should get together and show that they accept the challenge.

    APW- Never saw that match, sounds like something not to be missed. Anderson’s a great guy, he coaches my brother for rugby these days, and the level of enthusiasm he generates is unbelievable. Still no chance of them winning the School’s Cup but there you go…

  • Westchick

    I totally agree with you! I see the fair and measured response to the Haka that Mick suggests, but to be honest I want to see the All Blacks suffer for their blatant assault on O’Driscoll.
    Does anyone want to help me try and convince them that in Dublin we play rugby with hurls?

  • The Irish team should do Riverdance, that’ll scare the bejaybus out of the All-Blacks!

  • I first heard of Willie when he shinned up an Argentine flagpole and pinched the flag, just before the Falklands War. But I’m afraid Anderson’s Haka response did not bring huge success to the Irish team at the end of the day. Cool heads and fast, hard tackles should be the order of the day.

  • PS

    To be honest, I just hope it doesn’t get embarrassing tomorrow. Anything better than a 20 points defeat would be a victory of sorts.

  • Harold Jacobs

    I can’t believe that he is still playing after that spear tackle on the Lions’s tour! Surely he should have apologised! Surely he should have been banned from this test – what were the IRB thinking??? Yes, I am speaking of GORDAN D’ARCY, who the whole country of Ireland seem to have forgotten about – you know, the guy who was actually cited for a spear tackle on the Lions tour to New Zealand. And yes, my tongue is firmly in-cheek. I mean: who cares now??? Still in-cheek: Why do you think the Irish have forgotten about this? Maybe they are a little biased in their view? One-eyed? Hypocritical? Hanging on to anything to deflect from the inadequacies of their team? Maybe they’ve forgotten because New Zealand got over that, oh, 30 minutes after it happened, and haven’t whinged about it every day for the last 5 months?

  • Well, as a Maori woman I always find it amusing how the foreigners interpret the haka and my, how you do go on and on, about something you know nothing about. In all these many years you never have got the joke – which makes us all laugh the harder.

    The original haka, it speaks of the humour filled situation of a high ranked chief that hid underneath a woman’s genitalia to hide from his enemies – who never did think to look there for a man. Of the hairy faced ali (who by reputation was an as an ugly sod), caused as it were ‘the sun to shine’ on the chief, when his sudden appearance at the opened cover of the underground hiding place signalled that the enemy had left to look for the chief elsewhere.

    “It’s death/I die” – Ka Mate – are words the chief muttered to himself as the enemies came close to his hiding place, “Its life/ I live” as their steps went away from his hidey hole.

    It’s a celebration! Its the JOY of using speed, wit, cunning and breaking convention to win over your opponents. Its speaks of a Maori attitude and pride it is to go against those who far out number you – but you win because you’re smarter, tougher and harder than they. And we ARE – ya wingeing mob!

    And in choosing THAT particular haka – it’s the humour of the situation when the opponent is so damn scared of a funny story told in chant and dance. *laugh*

    You all out number us many times over – but that ne’er seems to matter much now does it ?!! 🙂

  • A.K

    I think you irish people should give it a rest. I am loyal 15 yr old all blacks supporter, and while it was a bad tackle, Brian O’Driscoll should honestly give it a rest. You irish are too cocky in thinking that Tana Umaga is the only one that has done rong. What about Gordan Darcy? He got sighted for his tackle. GIVE IT A REST!!

  • “I always find it amusing how the foreigners interpret the haka and my, how you do go on and on, about something you know nothing about.”

    It’s essentially a war dance, that’s how we interpret it and that’s how the All-Black perform it, they have distorted the meaning over the years to make it more agressive and suited to rugby.

    “a high ranked chief that hid underneath a woman’s genitalia”
    Sounds like she had a serious medical condition.

  • esmereldavillalobos


    I think you should be spending more time on your English lessons at school than rambling on about Saint Umaga. I think you’ll find the correct word you were searching for is “cited”, Irish has a capital “I” and I won’t even go into your spelling of “wrong” (I give the benefit of the doubt here and assume it’s a typo). When you’ve learnt enough to debate with the big boys, make sure you get back to us. Until then, enjoy this afternoon, I don’t think your team will forget it in a hurry whatever the result.