Rugby World Cup 2011

Tonga get haka head-start

2011-09-07 09:41
Tongan haka (File)

Auckland - Tonga will kick off the Rugby World Cup's haka wars after they were given the nod to start their traditional pre-match war dance ahead of New Zealand in the World Cup opener on Friday.

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Tournament director Kit McConnell said Tonga had the right to start their haka ahead of hosts New Zealand, who then have the option of trying to out-shout their rivals or waiting until they have finished.

At least two World Cup games will feature a clash of hakas - tribal routines where players chant, stamp their feet and pull faces to intimidate the opposition - with Fiji also due to play Samoa on September 25.

McConnell said Tonga would start first as they were designated 'Team A' for the match at Auckland's Eden Park, which will also be preceded by a glitzy opening ceremony.

"Where we have two teams performing cultural challenges... Team A, who in this case on Friday night is Tonga, will start their challenge first," said McConnell.

"And then it's up to the other team to determine when they perform their challenge. The second team performing the challenge can wait until the first team finishes their challenge or they can start after the first team starts.

"So it's not up to us to tell the teams how they choose to perform their challenge but Team A will start their challenge first, and (on Friday) it's up to the All Blacks to determine when and how they respond to that."

Tonga captain Finau Maka said he hoped the All Blacks would wait until his team had finished their haka, or sipi tau, as a mark of respect.

"I'd prefer to see one team do the haka and the other team face up to the challenge, after that the other team do theirs," he said. "I'd rather that than two teams doing the haka and the sipi tau at the same time.

"It doesn't matter when they start but to me I think it would be good if we do ours so the public and everyone on TV at home can watch them and they would prefer to see that happening while the other team are watching, pay a bit of respect to whoever's doing the haka."

Hakas have featured in the World Cup build-up after flash mobs of about 50 people performing at an Auckland shopping centre and busy intersection were filmed and shown on video site YouTube, attracting half-a-million views.


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