As can be seen from a previous entry the RCC chaps tend to be folk who find Tradition (whether within sport, the Faith or in culture and society generally) something they would really rather like to hang on to. The Haka as a part of the rituals of international rugby matches HAS been up until now been a part of Tradition – hallowed by time and ritual performance. In 1905 New Zealand made their first tour of Britain. It is reported that they performed a Haka before their first test, against Scotland, and certainly before the match against Wales. The Welsh crowd, led by the Welsh team, responded by singing the Welsh national anthem.
In recent years it has been seen by some as a rather unsporting attempt to ‘psych-out’ the opposition and there have been different responses to it. Usually teams will face the Haka leaving respectful distance of 10 yards or so. Some teams have ignored it – Australia in a test in Wellington in 1996 went on to a record defeat at the hands of the All Blacks. Likewise Italy went down 76-14 against the All Blacks trying the same technique during the current World Cup pool matches.
Some have tried a more aggressive approach. In 1997 the England hooker Richard Cockerill stood toe-to-toe with Norm Hewitt during the Haka to the point where the referee intervened to avoid bloodshed. The game was a 26-26 draw. Likewise the French team faced down the Haka wearing co-ordinated track-suit tops to form a Tricouleur. They dumped the Kiwis from the tournament to face ignominy at home. So perhaps the All Blacks (and other South Sea island teams) do try to use this tradition to their advantage (much in the same way that liturgists drag up some imagined practice of the Early Church). They need to be faced down. Well, either that or you could try what the Aussies do best – questioning their manhood (see below).
By the way – did I mention that neither team made it past the quarter finals? Tally ho!