THE All Blacks are yet to play a game in the World Cup but they have already been bombarded by questions from the media - mainly from overseas - about the haka.
This time the hook for a press pack eager to find something to fill their days ahead of Saturday's opening match between England and Fiji was a daft video by former England halfback Matt Dawson in which he pokes fun at the traditional challenge with his own version which he dubs the "Hakarena".
The video, which is not particularly funny, clever, or even original, prompted 11 questions on the haka at a press conference today attended by front-rowers Keven Mealamu, Charlie Faumuina and Wyatt Crockett. After the 10th, Mealamu, his frustration beginning to show, politely asked for something else to talk about.
'Hakarena' - Ex England captain mocks All Blacks' haka
A summary of the replies are as follows:
Mealamu: "It was actually quite funny seeing him [Dawson] do it.
"The haka is something that we do but ... we're out there to play the game.
"It's quite a special part of our culture as New Zealanders.
"It's his [Dawson's] view and the way he sees it. He sees it different to us.
"It's a tradition - not only in All Black history but as something ... in our culture. We're proud of it and we like to think we do it well every time we go out on the field.
"I started doing the haka when I was four years old in the backyard. Not too flash but I saw my heroes do it as All Blacks.
"To be honest we'd heard about it [video] but we're just looking forward to playing Argentina."
Charlie Faumuina: "I haven't seen it but I'm not too fussed about what they're doing. It's something we do for ourselves and it brings us together."
Wyatt Crockett: "As the boys have said, we do it for ourselves. We're passionate about the haka as New Zealanders.
"For us it brings us together as a team and a country."
Mealamu: "To be honest, we've got a game to play this week - we've got bigger things to worry about."
The All Blacks are used to fielding questions about the haka in this part of the world. Often they are about whether the pre-match challenge gives them an unfair advantage.
This time it was about an apparent disrespecting of an important element of New Zealand's culture, and Mealamu clearly felt on safer ground when asked about the challenge posed by Argentina's front row at Wembley on Monday which is likely to include hooker and captain Agustin Creevy.
"They don't come much bigger than that," he said. "They've done it [scrummage] so well for years and years - they're probably masters of the scrum. Their forward pack has been renowned for some time. They're the perfect shape for scrummaging. It's a challenge we've been looking forward to for a long time."
- NZ Herald
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