Instead of facing the Haka before their encounter with New Zealand on Saturday, the Italians huddled together in a tight circle with their backs to the New Zealanders. This, according to centre Luke McAlister, made the All Blacks "a little more angry".
"The traditional thing is to stand up and respect it and by them not doing that it was pretty disrespectful," he said.
Furthermore the NZ Herald claimed it was "a sad indictment on the Italians that they made a premeditated decision to give [the Haka] the cold shoulder".
Sad indictment? I'm afraid the only sad indictment applies to all-too-predictable reaction of the overly precious Kiwis. Once again it is demanded that the world respects their Haka (we have to endure it, why on earth do we have to respect it?). Not only that, but the list of actions that are disrespectful continues to grow, including:
- turning your back on the Haka and ignoring it;
- practising kicking at the other end of the pitch a la Davd Campese;
- getting the face of the All Blacks a la Richard Cockerill;
- standing in a semi circle with your captain in the centre and then throwing a blade of grass into the wind (this, despite having taken advice from a Maori elder on how to receive the Haka, led to Lions' captain Brian O'Driscoll nearly having his career ended by Messrs Umaga and Mealamu some minutes later);
- as spectators, singing to encourage your own team as the crowd did at Twickenham last year;
- daring to suggest that the Haka is performed before the home National Anthem.
The New Zealand players have time and time again suggested that they perform this dance for themselves, to help psyche themselves up for the game. The other leading nations have no equivalent (despite Jake White's farcical suggestion earlier this summer). Consequently, while there's no doubt that the Haka currently adds to the pageantry of the occasion, the Kiwis need reminding once again that to be allowed to perform it is a privilege and not a right.