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Alastair Eykyn's blog: September 2011 Archives
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September 2011 Archives

The origins of the haka

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The haka is an emotive subject, with South Africa coach Pieter de Villiers whipping up a storm in New Zealand last week when he claimed the ritual was losing its lustre. "People are becoming used to it," he said. "It's not a novelty anymore and they don't respect it."

Inevitably, the comments triggered articles in the Kiwi press featuring outraged Maori leaders, protective cultural figures and even a few disgruntled foreigners. But does De Villiers have a point?

For this week's Radio 5 live rugby programme, I spoke to a number of different people about the haka and its place in Maori culture and All Black history.

Destructive All Blacks show champion style

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Auckland

Have we caught an early glimpse of the future world champions? I believe we might.

It took New Zealand just eight minutes to break the French. It's easy to say with hindsight, but it's the truth. From the moment fly-half Dan Carter put boot to ball to clear downfield after an inspired French opening, the visitors were done for.

The All Blacks were intent on displaying why they are the hot favourites to lift the Webb Ellis trophy.

The greatest World Cup match ever?

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On 31 October 1999, 70,000 people filed into Twickenham expecting to see champions-elect New Zealand walk past France into the World Cup final. What followed was certainly a classic for rugby fans but was it the greatest World Cup match ever?

 

Maybe France’s 43-31 victory was the best of all time. Perhaps even, dare I suggest it, for All Blacks supporters. It was a unique occasion, a stunning contest featuring every possible element you could wish for in a sporting showdown.

 

There was a hot favourite, an unpredictable underdog, some phenomenally good tries and a barely believable see-sawing of the scoreboard. It was rare drama.

 

 

Ireland's ambush of Australia a result for the ages

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Well that was something wasn't it? Ireland were sensational. Australia were ambushed. Maybe there was something in the air for Saturday's 15-6 upset by the Irish at Eden Park. It certainly felt that way.

To be in Auckland before the match was to witness a sea of green-shirted supporters intent on creating their very own southern hemisphere version of Dublin. There was rain around. The Wallabies had lost their key openside flanker David Pocock to a back injury in the morning and by kick-off they had lost their hooker Stephen Moore to sickness. The stars seemed to be aligning, and the pattern they depicted was that of a shamrock.

Now or never for Ireland as Aussies beckon

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Ireland are a side who seem to relish the sensational one-off victory. Often it is England who feel the heat. Think of the foot-and-mouth game from October 2001 or the final match of this year's Six Nations in Dublin. Can they pull off the big one against Australia here in Auckland on Saturday?

A few months ago Ireland were looking like the danger team of the northern hemisphere. They seemed more than capable of turning over the Wallabies and opening up an enticing World Cup path where they would likely avoid New Zealand, while Australia would be left to face South Africa in the quarter-finals. Four consecutive warm-up defeats to Scotland, England and France twice drained that confidence and belief, while the opening win over the United States will have done little to alleviate the concern among their passionate supporters. Albeit in appalling conditions, the Irish handling was poor and the cutting edge missing.

Australia were arguably the most impressive of all the main contenders in the opening round of fixtures. They weathered a physical start from Italy and, despite the 6-6 half-time score, pulled clear with a classy second-half display. They are Tri-Nations champions, have a host of fabulously talented players to call upon and a very shrewd coach in Robbie Deans.

Ireland lock Paul O'Connell accepts they are firm underdogs. He said: "On form Australia are a long way ahead of us at the moment. They have threats all over the field and we have to starve them of quality ball.

"For us to win, we need a massive performance. In Irish teams, when our emotion and passion is high, we're a better side. Hopefully that will be there in abundance on Saturday. When we put it together for 80 minutes, we are an excellent side that can compete with anyone."

Rugby World Cup splutters into life

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The excitement was there. The anticipation was there. Auckland was awash with the colours of every participating nation and the opening ceremony was impressive.

Yet the game that launched the 2011 Rugby World Cup had little, or no, competitive edge as New Zealand ran out 41-10 winners over Tonga.

The early offloading of New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams was a joy to behold; the flicks and tricks of a magician at work.

The finishing of Israel Dagg and Richard Kahui was impressive as well - though too often the Tongans seemed to wave them through to the try line. It took the Islanders a full 40 minutes to shake off the stage fright.

When they did, we saw the All Blacks flustered, hassled and penalised. The immortals were mortal after all, and Tonga had taken too long to realise it.

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About this blog

I'm Alastair Eykyn and I am a rugby commentator for BBC Radio and TV. My job also involves having my nose to the ground for all the interesting rugby stories. You can follow me on Twitter @5LiveRugby.

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Jump to more content from this blog

About this blog

I'm Alastair Eykyn and I am a rugby commentator for BBC Radio and TV. My job also involves having my nose to the ground for all the interesting rugby stories. You can follow me on Twitter @5LiveRugby.

Here are some tips on taking part and our house rules

For the latest updates across BBC blogs,
visit the Blogs homepage.

Subscribe to Alastair Eykyn's blog

You can stay up to date with Alastair Eykyn's blog via these feeds.

If you aren't sure what RSS is you'll find our beginner's guide to RSS useful.

Rugby headlines

Visit the BBC Sport website