Blacks embrace Haka stand-off

There was an overwhelmingly positive response from the All Blacks’ players to Wales decision to respond to their Haka in Cardiff on Saturday.

After the Blacks had concluded a stirring rendition of Kapa o Pango, the Wales squad simply stood motionless for what seemed like eternity, staring down the All Blacks, who were visibly surprised at the response.

Referee Jonathan Kaplan eventually had to insist on the teams forming up for the start of the match. Welsh skipper Ryan Jones said their decision to follow that course of action was prompted by the desire to reflect ownership.

“It was something we came up with during the week. What we were trying to show was that it was our stadium, our pitch, our fans and we weren’t prepared to give up the ground. I think we showed that and we took that into the opening encounters of the game,” he said.

All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw said: “I didn’t know that we were going to get started to be honest. Jonathan was quite keen to get on with it.

“There was a fair bit of feeling to both teams. It was good. It really showed that both teams were ready to play and I think the start of the game with it’s intensity proved that.”

All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu enjoyed the Welsh approach. “There was a stand-off but it was good. I thought it was quite respectful actually,” said the All Blacks hooker. “The ref just told us it went a bit too long. But it was just good to see the Welshmen take the challenge, it as awesome. It was a good way to start the match – there was a lot of passion.”

Jerome Kaino, Black blindside flank, said: “We expected something … we weren’t quite sure what to expect though. I wasn’t really expecting them to do a haka back but they held their ground and we held our ground. The ref had to step in and separate both teams.”

Meanwhile coach Graham Henry has played down talk of their chance at securing the Grand Slam against a battered England at Twickenham on Saturday.

“You don’t want to get ahead of yourselves on these things and a lot of sides have done that over the years. They have come over and talked about Grand Slams and we didn’t want to get into that situation. I think it’s arrogant anyway.

“So now it’s a reality and I think we can try and focus on winning a game next week at Twickenham with a Grand Slam at stake.”