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Haka-attack!

Robbo Robson | 15:00 UK time, Thursday, 27 November 2008

Right that's that then. Next time you're down the local shops and you come across a bunch of big Kiwis doing a haka, no staring OK?

According to Graham Henry, staring's just disrespectful, in which case I disrespected me telly for three hours last night. It could be worse, mate. You could turn your backs on it, drop your shorts to it, possibly even Didier Drogba it by pelting it with coins...

Frankly any time the opposition responds in any way to the haka, there's this uppity reaction from the New Zealanders. Now I understand the tradition argument. They've been doing it for years so let 'em get on with it. But clearly there's more to it than that.

There's an attempt to dominate the pitch, wind themselves up and intimidate the opposition. It's great entertainment but I don't see why their opponents have to doff their caps and go scurrying back between their own posts until the big lunks from the Land of the Long White Cloud have finished shouting at them.
Wales players stare down the haka
To my mind, there's two ways to approach this issue. One, ignore it completely (which is also insulting, apparently). Two, give 'em some of their own medicine. It's not as if the rugby-playing nations of the world aren't stuffed full of their own traditions that might help counteract any benefit from the haka.

English rugby players seem to be quite good at the old mincing when you look at Dawson and Healy on Strictly, and I've been saying for nigh on 10 years now that an aggressive Morris dance (no ribbons but a lot of big sticks and a big wicker man) should do the trick.

They could finish the dance by asking the Antipodeans the question a lot of Englishmen ask their colonial cousins: "Can I have two pints of bitter and a bag of pork scratchings please?"

The Scots are underplaying their traditions too. I think if they added another three verses to Flower of Scotland and had some piper drone it out for a good 15 minutes the All Blacks would be left somewhere between despair and a coma and you could run in two tries before the poor devils had shaken themselves out of their torpor.

The Welsh can do a lot better than just stare. Make them sit through a full Eisteddfod complete with a guest performance by that bird Katherine Jenkins (easy on the eye, hard on the ear) and the All Blacks will be jelly by kick-off.

And wait! Who's that lining up at centre alongside Brian O'Driscoll? It's only Michael bleeding Flatley... and by God if that isn't the first XV doing a Riverdance special while Eddie O'Sullivan plays the fiddle and Keith Wood gets the black stuff in for the All Black front five.

Other countries will have more creative ways than us home nations, you can be sure of that. The French will pave the halfway line and pull out some tables and chairs and sit there puffing on their Gitanes and sipping their café au laits and countering the hollering with a moustachioed accordionist. Or come to think of it they could go for the ultimate all-out insult and look the All Blacks in the face and do some hardcore mime.

There'll be tangoing Argentines, a full-blown Rigoletto from the Italians, the Japanese can host a massive endurance quiz (complete once again with three hours of bagpipes)... I mean frankly we're all missing out on a treat and a half.

Now I'm not saying the haka shouldn't be done, although I'm not sure about the one they did against South Africa a while back - which ended with a slitting your throat gesture - was particularly pleasant. Still that version is rarer than a banker's apology so I won't harp on about it.

However I'm never quite sure whether it helps the All Blacks or not. It looks pretty terrifying when 18-stone blokes with thighs the circumference of a hula hoop (the 50s craze, not the crisps) start bawling at you with their eyes staring like Maradona, 1994 style.
But it seems to me the team is so weighed down by all this tradition that sometimes they bottle it, particularly at World Cups. I'm no expert but at their best NZ make rugby union very watchable, which is a blinking triumph in itself.

But then again they've only won the Webb Ellis Trophy once despite being the best team going into every competition. So summat's up. The next tournament is on their own patch and given their capacity to crack under pressure, perhaps they should drop the haka in favour of some less oppressive pre-match routine.

Perhaps a sheep-shearing demonstration and a top recipe for New Zealand lamb would do the trick. Or some brains-for-mush Kiwis could bungee jump from off the top of the goalposts. Just a thought.

The haka is a spectacle in itself, that's for sure, but can Henry and so on stop whining about how teams react to it and if they feel narked then maybe they could use that as fuel to drub the opposition (which is pretty much what happened in Cardiff any road.)

In the meantime, it doesn't matter what they do before the whistle at Twickers - they could sashay on sideways and do an All Black Swan Lake and they'd still win by 40 points.

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