15 Oct 2015

The face-off before the kick-off

10:27 am on 15 October 2015

While the haka lights a flame in the chest of Kiwi supporters, the opposition usually stands uncomfortably and waits for it to be over. But sometimes a team makes a stand against the haka and fans have also been known to give them a helping hand.

All Blacks do the haka

The haka sometimes turns into a face-off before kick-off. Photo: Getty

Ahead of Sunday morning's All Blacks-France game in Cardiff, many are thinking back to 2007's quarter-final, where France famously beat the All Blacks 20-18.

But the match was memorable even before the sound of the starting whistle: the French team, who wore shirts in their flag's colours, advanced slowly forward over the course of the haka, until they were almost eye-to-eye with the New Zealand side.

The All Blacks had thrown down the gauntlet, and France were happy to take it up.

It isn't the only time the team has presented a challenge of their own in their own special way.

But it sometimes comes at a cost - France breached the 10-metre gap at the World Cup final in 2011 by making a V formation, fanning out, and marching towards the All Blacks.

They lost the game and - even more ignominiously - were fined $5,700 by the International Ruby Board (IRB).

It's not just All Blacks-France games that have seen creative reactions to the haka.

When the All Blacks played England at Twickenham in December 2012, English fans made their support known by singing Sweet Chariot so loudly that they drowned out the New Zealanders to the point it looked as though they were miming.

It wasn't the first time English fans had burst into song during a haka, but it did mark one of their team's more successful outings against the All Blacks - England went on to win 38-21.

England's recent take on the haka - the #hakarena - hasn't yet made it onto the pitch.

Former England player Matt Dawson made a tongue-in-cheek video blending the '90s dance craze the Macarena with the haka and branded it the side's "secret weapon", but choosing to limit it to social media and not taking it onto the field may have been a mistake, with the home side underperforming in this year's Cup. More wiggling required next time?

Australia all but ignored the haka during the 1991 World Cup semi-final against the All Blacks. They touched their toes, kicked balls, and, all in all, generally treated the haka as a pre-game irritation. But their laissez-faire attitude to the challenge didn't translate to the Dublin game, which they won with a stonking 16-6.

But a quirky approach to the haka doesn't always equate to a stunning victory for the opposition. In 2008, a ballsy Welsh side entered into a Mexican stand-off in their Millennium Stadium, with both sides standing firm for minutes after the haka had ended.

Eventually the ref had to intervene, trying unsuccessfully to persuade both teams to walk off and start the game. He went back and forth between the sides before, eventually, the All Blacks relented.

It didn't translate to points, but internet newspaper Wales Online are still riding the wave of what they saw as a pre-game victory, writing at the end of last year that the loss was "a matter of little significance."

"November 22, 2008, will always be remembered for the battle that unfolded before the whistle had sounded."

Still, with a final score of 29-9, this was one instance where the battle may have been won, but, in the end, the war was lost.

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