Wednesday, November 26, 2008

All Blacks dismiss claims haka gives them advantage

Tue, 25 Nov 2008 5:15p.m.

We almost made it through a season without a haka story. But rather sadly, with just one test remaining, calls to end the All Blacks' haka are reverberating around the British Isles ahead of this weekend's test against England.

It is no surprise given the standard of their rugby team the English are again on the wind-up.
London is not famous for its warm welcomes, and today the All Blacks felt the weather's wrath. The rain and snow held off, and the team hopes it will stay that way.

"You always want to play in dry conditions," says All Black lock Brad Thorn. "We've been lucky. We had the roof closed in Wales and had a beautiful night in Ireland, so we'll see how it goes."

There is also a storm of opinion brewing here and it centres on the haka. Some British television commentators and columnists say the haka in international rugby has had its day. The controversy is growing following the death stare dished out by the Welsh before last weekend's test, and the English, perhaps eager to divert attention away from their record loss to the Springboks, say the haka gives the All Blacks an unfair psychological advantage.

"We have in the past tried to use the haka as a motivation to make sure we start well," says All Black prop Neemia Tialata, "but with teams now facing up to the challenge and making sure there's five minutes break before we kick off, it has been a little bit challenging for us."

Thorn thinks it is just sour grapes, and says the English would be better off worrying about the 80 minutes that follow the haka.
"I'm not really about standing trying to looking tough, I'm about kicking off and getting in to it and that's what pushes my buttons."

On the field, Conrad Smith took little part in training today. Whether he or Richard Kahui starts at centre against England seems to be Graham Henry's only selection headache this week.

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