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Who Needs A World Cup War Dance?

By Dan Hutton on September 25, 2011 in

Last month I tuned into the opening ceremony of the Rugby World Cup before watching the Tongans and All Blacks belt the living daylights out of one another. It was to be expected really, given the fierce war dances that both teams performed leading up to the kick-off.


And it struck me at that moment that more often than not these war dances are a one-sided affair, with little right of reply given to non Pacific Island nations. In fact, this was one of only a handful times that I had seen both competing teams perform a traditional pre-game jig, which brought me to the question (and I’m sure I’m not the only one to ask it), are these pre-game war dances really fair and if every country had the right to cut some rug prior to a rugby match (as the All Blacks obviously do with the Haka, the Fijians with the Cibi, the Tongans with the Kailao and the Samoans with Siva tau), what could we expect some of the non Pacific Island nations to come up with?

Personally, I enjoy the spectacle of the Haka and given that the All Blacks have been performing it regularly since the early 1900s it would be a shame to lose the tradition, but I’m not sure it was always so endearing. I recently watched a YouTube video of an All Blacks Haka back in the early 1970s when there appeared to be very few (if any) players of Maori descent in the team. Consequently, it would seem, the performance was lack-lustre at best. In fact, very few of the players seemed to know the moves or the words. It was a bit like watching Christina Aguilera attempt to sing the Star Spangled Banner at this year’s Superbowl, but at least she showed some enthusiasm.

In terms of the other nations’ potential performances, for a while there the Wallabies hired John Williamson to strum out Waltzing Mathilda before kick-off, but that’s hardly a war dance. And it’s somewhat insulting to suggest that a suicidal sheep rustler in anyway represents the true history of our nation. Nor does it inspire you to belt the Christ out of the All Blacks. If anything, stealing sheep is more likely inspire the Kiwis.

North of the equator, anyone who has seen Braveheart would know that the Scots like to flash the flesh beneath their kilts before battle. While this would certainly throw the opposition’s focus, it’s hardly appropriate behaviour in front of a global television audience of generally conservative rugby watchers.

The Irish could possibly employ the services of Michael Flatley to choreograph a Riverdance style jig but I’m not sure how light some of the prop forwards would be on their feet. I imagine it would quickly turn to farce.

And I noticed that the USA and Russia are playing in the same pool. I would hate to see what sort of war dance these two nuclear nations might come up with when they opposed each other. I certainly wouldn’t want to be within coo-ee of the stadium if things got heated.

With only two teams from each pool progressing to the quarter-finals, it seems likely that the Wallabies will only witness the one war dance at this World Cup, as it’s probable that the All Blacks will be only the only Pacific Island nation to progress beyond the pool stage. And if only one in four war dancing nations can make it through to finals, the odds suggest that the Wallabies should steer well clear of the dancefloor!