Haka cracker was players' idea
November 23, 2008
Wales refuse to give any ground following New Zealand's haka at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday © Getty Images
Gethin Jenkins has claimed an unnamed player plotted Wales' memorable response to the New Zealand Haka that brought a Millennium Stadium full house to its feet.
As All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and his team waited for Wales to disperse for kick-off after the tourists completed their traditional pre-match routine, the reigning Six Nations champions had other ideas. They remained rooted to the spot 10 metres away, staring down McCaw and company as both sides refused to budge before referee Jonathan Kaplan intervened.
It was a dramatic prelude to the main event, which New Zealand won 29-9 after trailing by three points at half-time. "We talked a bit about the Haka on Friday," said Wales prop Jenkins. "We respect their tradition, but it is our pitch and we wanted to stand our ground.
"The way the crowd responded was great. It was hard to keep a straight face, but it inspired us and had the desired effect. It was one of the player's ideas - I am not going to say who - and everyone was behind it. We said we weren't going to move until the referee split us up. There was nothing malicious, it was our home game and that's what we decided to do."
It certainly worked, as Wales dominated the early stages in their quest for a first victory over New Zealand since 1953. Fullback Lee Byrne said: "It really got us going - we came out all guns blazing. It was something different, but it seemed to work."
And Wales captain Ryan Jones added: "It was something we came up with in the week. We wanted to show it was our stadium, our pitch and our fans, and we weren't prepared to give up the ground, which we showed in the opening exchanges of the game.
"We were confident going into the game. We had huge belief in the heart and the soul of this team and the individuals who wore the jersey."
Wales' reaction to the Haka gained approval from the All Blacks player, even if they were not familiar with such an audacious response. "I thought it was very respectful - a great way to face the Haka," said All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu. "The Wales boys stood proud and it set the mood for the start of the game. There was nothing given or taken."
And McCaw added: "It was a bit of gamesmanship. The referee was keen to get on with things and I was not sure if the game was going to get started to be honest. There was a stand-off, but there was a point where you had to get on with the game.
"There was a fair bit of feeling from both teams, and I thought it was good. It really showed that both teams wanted to play. The intensity of the start of the game showed that. Perhaps they got on top of us for a little early on."