Sunday 19 November 2017

Juggle, huddle, march – it's time to stand up to the Haka

The All Blacks perform the Haka against Ireland last Sunday
The All Blacks perform the Haka against Ireland last Sunday
Tony Ward

Tony Ward

An interesting letter sent to these pages from James Kenny, who is based in France, caught my attention in midweek.

The thrust of his message was that the Haka gives the All Blacks a psychological advantage, and had they not had that springboard "Ireland would have won Sunday's game with ease".

I certainly don't share the latter view but he is spot on in relation to that edge New Zealand enjoy – and I cannot think of a nation that warrants that advantage less. His point that "the opposition having to stand quietly and respectfully" is equally well made.

I have mixed views on the Haka. I love its history, its tradition and drama.

When measured against 'Ireland's Call' it's an adrenalin-pumping war dance versus 'ring a ring a rosy' (o'roses) minus the movement. Maori versus Leprechaun.

Where I think Mr Kenny has a very valid point is in relation to what is expected of the opposition – particularly in a professional age where every little edge counts, the reaction of the rival team should be up to them.

In other words, having to stand still out of some outdated moral principle should be consigned to history. Whether a team wants to juggle a ball (David Campese, World Cup semi-final 1991) or form a huddle like in soccer, or march shoulder to shoulder (thereby manifesting Phil Coulter's lyrics) towards the half-way line (France, World Cup final 2011), let that choice be theirs, and not a decision made by the IRB.

The least every other nation deserves is an official attempt at levelling the playing field prior to kick-off. Retain the tradition but give the opposition full licence to do whatever it takes within their own half to make the build up to kick-off as fair as should be.

Right now it is anything but fair, and given the problems with our anthem here, we suffer more than any.

Irish Independent

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