Thursday 22 February 2018

Haka wheel goes full circle for Ireland captain Murphy

Hugh Farrelly

THE haka promises to be something special when Ireland line up against the New Zealand Maori on Friday night, but it may come as a surprise to the host team to learn that the Irish captain has been on the other side of the fence when it comes to the Maori war dance, writes Hugh Farrelly.

When he was a student at Newbridge College in Kildare, Geordan Murphy was part of an exchange scheme with Auckland Grammar, a famed rugby school in New Zealand, and during that time performed his share of hakas.

He went on to face New Zealand's haka eight times, seven with Ireland and once with the Lions in 2005 and it provides a unique insight into the practice and its importance to the Maori culture.

"It's a magnificent thing," said Murphy yesterday. "When we were in school here and we were a little bit younger, they teach the kids a haka and you have haka practice and bits and pieces. So yeah, I have been on the other side of it before.

"And then I've faced it a few times. I've had the great honour of playing with some quality All Blacks and I've seen it first hand. I think we'll face it the same way Irish teams have always faced it. We'll line up on the half-way line and we'll respect it and enjoy it. I'm all in favour of it. It's a great rugby tradition."

Being handed the Irish captaincy is a fitting tribute for the 67-times capped full-back who led Leicester to the English Premiership title this season and Murphy said the honour came a surprise. "It's a huge honour, a massive one. It's one I didn't ever expect, but I was asked the other day and I can't imagine anything that would compare.

"I've been there a few times and if I can bring a little bit of experience then that's it. I've said it before: I don't think the captain has as much responsibility as people give you credit for. We're lucky in this team that we've got a lot of experience in the forwards and hopefully I'll just have to say the right things at the right time and lead by example."

Murphy impressed off the bench in Saturday's harrowing 66-28 defeat to the All Blacks in New Zealand and will be looking for a big performance to reclaim the No 15 jersey from Rob Kearney for Saturday week's clash with Australia.

"Yeah, I think so," he replied, when asked would the Wallabies Test be a motivating factor.

"Everyone will be up for it. We've touched on how passionate the Maori guys will be. It's up to us to bring a little bit of Irishness to it as well."

Irish Independent

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