Sunday 30 April 2017

Ireland must meet the All Blacks' fearsome haka with an avalanche of Celtic fury

New Zealand players perform the Haka before a match Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images
New Zealand players perform the Haka before a match Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

John Daly

Men bellowing to the skies like lovesick banshees, crazed eyes dancing above foaming lips, fists pounding flesh in a prance of self-flagellation, legs stomping the ground in a deranged dance of manic fury.

No, it's not midnight outside your local chipper, but the bi-annual visitation of that sporting pest known as the haka. Easily mistaken at first glance as a cock-eyed cross between high theatre and the lowest form of camp comedy, the All Blacks' pre-match ritual has become one of the sporting world's most unique creations - an ancient call to arms that few nations seem equipped to deal with. Carefully nurtured over the years into a key element of Kiwi teams' aura of invincibility, its blood-curdling roars and chest-thumping high-jinks have morphed into a modern scene of spine-tingling theatre designed to thrill and terrify in equal measure.

Those rugby players who have faced down this greatest symbol of New Zealand manhood say there's nothing quite like an waggling Maori tongue to get the blood boiling. "Let us prepare ourselves for the fight!" they roar. "The storm is about to break. We shall stand fearless and climb to the heavens!"

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