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Top five haka responses of all time

By Philip Bendon
Munster Haka vs Munster

Whenever the All Blacks there is a special feeling in the air, a mystique if you will.

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Rugby fans the world over know the unique challenges the Kiwis pose; at their worst they can beat any team in the world. At their best they are simply unplayable as just about every rugby playing nation has experienced at one point or another.

Widely regarded as the springboard from which the All Blacks launch, the haka sends a tingle down opposition players and fans alike. How a team responds to the haka is often analysed as heavily as the clash itself. Here we take a look at the top five haka responses of all time, each posing their own approach to the famous pre match ritual.

5. Ireland – 1989 Lansdowne Road

As the 1980’s came to a close, the last big international test of the decade would take place at the famous Lansdowne Road in Dublin. Whenever the All Blacks are in town, Dublin is a light with tales of famous battles and the mystique around this seemingly unbeatable force from a tiny Island in the south pacific. In many ways the Irish and Kiwis are similar, two small island nations who continually punch far above their weight on the global sporting scene. On the back of winning the inaugural World Cup at home two years prior, this All-Black squad was stacked with future legends of the game. Names like Grant Fox, Wayne “Buck” Shelford and Sean Fitzpatrick have been immortalised in the annuls of the game. Ahead of the clash, Irish captain Willie Anderson and coach Jimmy Davidson had made an agreement not to back down to the Kiwis in the pre-match challenge. “I always said that we won the dance but lost the match. You have to not only match them in the haka you have to go toe to toe the whole way. In fairness it was Jimmy Davidson’s idea and I suppose he got a few…idiotic lieutenants to carry it out. And the atmosphere was …if you could have bottled it, you would have made a fortune.” Anderson would later say. Leading the charge Anderson marched towards the All Blacks with seven Irish teammates either side of them as he went face-to-face with the All Blacks. As Anderson says the atmosphere was electric that day as the old Lansdowne Road was rocking.

4. England – 2019 World Cup

A significant win for English Rugby would take place in this semi-final of the 2019 World Cup. Eddie Jones and his side came into the tournament on the back of some seriously impressive performances and as such had little regarded for aura surrounding the back-to-back World Champions. Setting the scene early would be the now famous image of England captain Owen Farrell smirking at the All Blacks throughout their haka. Locking eyes with All Black skipper Kieran Reid, Farrell refused to back down and had that look of someone who was about to do something special. In what would be the most dominant performance over an All-Black side in the previous decade, England came away with a deserved 19 – 7 victory setting up a final clash with South Africa’s Springboks. Unfortunately for the Red Roses it would appear the high of thumping the World Champions would take it out of them as they would go on to lose in the final. Irrespective of this, their unique challenge to the Haka and dominant performance ranks highly amongst the great responses of all-time.

3. Wales – 2008 Millennium Stadium

Speaking of the 2007 World Cup, New Zealand weren’t the only tier one team to fall short of expectations. Having fallen to a shock pool defeat at the hands of Fiji, Wales saw their tournament end before even reaching the knockout stages. In the wake of the loss, head coach Gareth Jenkins was shown the door and Kiwi Warren Gatland was brought in. Under Gatland Wales would go on to become one of the best sides in the world. In his first November series in charge, “Gats” would oversee a titanic tussle with his home country. Although the final score line of 29 – 9 would suggest a dominant All Black victory, the opening half was a physical battle unlike many others. It all started with this epic response from the Welsh to haka, clearly unwilling to take a step backwards the officials had to step in to separate the two sides.

2. Munster – 2008

2008 was the year of Haka responses. In a clash of two of Rugby’s biggest brands, Irish provincial side welcomed the All Blacks to Thomond Park on a typical November evening. Having previously lost to the southern province in 1978, the All Blacks were only too aware of the danger this Munster side posed and duly picked a strong squad the midweek fixture. That 1978 fixture had lived long in the memory of both nations even though the All Blacks would win the next fixture in 1989. Up until 2016 that Munster victory would be the only win for an Irish side over the mighty All Blacks. In 2008 Munster featured a very strong squad who had recently been crowned Heineken Cup Champions for the second time. In that squad was the legendary All Black winger Doug Howlett as well as three other highly talented Kiwis in Rua Tipoki, Jeremy Manning and Lifeimi Mafi stood forward to offer an incredible haka performance of their own. As the trio stepped forward the crowd went to a level never seen before at the historic ground. The fixture itself was an all-time classic with the visitors avenging the team of 78 with a late score to break Munster hearts 18 – 16.

1. France – 2007 World Cup

The circumstances around Frances appearance in this fixture were a key reason to this haka confrontation boiling over. As hosts of the 2007 World Cup, the weight of a a nation was resting on this talented French squad. On opening night of the tournament, they faced off with Argentina’s Los Pumas at the home of French Rugby the Stade De France. Unfortunately for Les Bleus what transpired was on par with a scene out of Les Misérables as Los Pumas ran away with a deserved 17 – 12 victory. This loss put the hosts on the backfoot immediately as the prospect of a home quarterfinal was all but gone. In a joint bid to host the tournament, France teamed up with Wales and Scotland as co-hosts which meant that there would be four fixtures played in Cardiff with one of them being this quarterfinal tie. After dispatching Georgia, Namibia and Ireland, Bernard Laporte’s team rebounded to defeat the mighty All Blacks at the Millennium stadium in what has gone down as one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.

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