The Irish media have turned up the heat early in the week, ahead of their country’s clash with the world’s top-ranked team, New Zealand, at Croke Park in Dublin on Saturday.
Rugby 365 reports that the All Blacks and their pre-match war-dance, the haka, felt the sharp end of the poisonous Irish pens.
Veteran Irish rugby journalist Vincent Hogan took aim at the tourists with a barb-infested column which attacks coach Graham Henry’s personality, the side’s long-standing demeanour, their perceived lack of respect for fellow international sides, their failure to win the World Cup since 1987 and the pre-match haka.
And Hogan also hasn’t wasted any time in bringing up the actions of Keven Mealamu, who was assisted by Tana Umaga, that took Brian O’Driscoll out of the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour in the opening minutes of the first Test in Christchurch.
“You may gather that I’m not a fan,” he wrote in the Independent.
“The haka pretty much crystallises why. To question it is, apparently, to declare oneself ignorant of All Black heritage.
“Well, call this column ignorant.
“The haka is, essentially, a leery war dance. When the mode takes them, the Blacks embellish it with a gesture that, to the naked eye, looks uncannily like a promise to slit the opponent’s throat.
“Turn your back on it, as the Wallabies did in Wellington in ’96 and you risk being charged with discourtesy. Face up to it politely, as Brian O’Driscoll and the Lions did in ’05, and the chances are that you’re heading to the nearest casualty ward.
“Clive Woodward had more than a few left-field ideas about the All Blacks in ’05. One of them was that calling them by that name ‘perpetuated the aura’. His players were instructed to refer only to ‘the New Zealanders’ or the ‘New Zealand team’ in interviews. Never their preferred name, the ‘All Blacks’.
“Of course, he sent O’Driscoll to meet some Maori elders for advice on how to meet the haka ‘challenge’ (and we all know how that ended).
“Now we’re not ones to hold long-term grudges in these parts, but to hear Graham Henry refer to Keven Mealamu last week as a ‘special All Black in the way he conducts himself both on and off the field’ was to wonder if the New Zealand coach was perhaps being purposefully mischievous.
“Ordinarily, humour isn’t Henry’s thing. But that’s never stopped him getting laughs.”
Hogan added that Henry was the “perfect coaching accompaniment to the All Blacks”, stating his personality was: “Dour. Hubristic. Adversarial.”
Hogan wasted little time in reminding the All Blacks of their lengthy history of failure at successive Rugby World Cups since the victory in the first-ever tournament in 1987.
He covered that tournament, and was also hugely critical of the side’s demeanour at the 1991 event, where the All Blacks were beaten by the Wallabies at the semifinal stage.
“One of the nice things about the All Blacks coming to town is that they tell us more about ourselves than a whole year of psychotherapy,” he said.
“When they look at us they see lifelong losers. The bullying gene in their rugby DNA practically froths and bubbles at the threat of losing to opposition of our calibre. In the long history of Ireland and New Zealand playing the union game, the threat has, of course, never been fulfilled.
“And the day it is will be the day a group of men in black prepare to go home in ankle-chains.
“Outside of their own, few people love the All Blacks. New Zealand victories are, by and large, statements of power. They smash teams, they run a bus over the bodies. They play through a vaguely malignant strain of intimidation.
“So seeing them get nailed is one of rugby’s great redemptive offerings. It’s like watching the school ruffian pick the wrong fight and end up with a nosebleed.
“During the ’91 World Cup I referred to them as having all the ‘gaiety of gravediggers’. Ruthless on the field, they were robotic off it. The description seemed to cause profound offence in New Zealand.
“It was the equivalent of setting off a stink-bomb in a church.
“Religious analogies aren’t inappropriate either. New Zealanders are religious about their rugby. But then they should be. It’s pretty much all they’ve got.
“Take golfer Michael Campbell out of the equation and exactly what else do they bring to mainstream sport on the global stage?”
Hogan wrote that one of the problems with Irish rugby was that it paid the All Blacks “too much respect”.
In contrast he claimed that the All Blacks, “essentially, pay us none”.
“Since 1905, they’ve played us 21 times, won 20, drawn one. They get their kicks out of smashing our types into small pieces. Good luck to them,” he wrote.
“Yet those of us who covered the inaugural World Cup in ’87, tripping from what an English journalist referred to as ‘one wooden, bungaloid, frontier post to another’ as the All Blacks made kindling out of every opponent, could never have imagined how lonesome they would be for the Webb Ellis trophy 21 years on.
“Maybe that is the only revenge open to us as they visit now. The knowledge that nothing they do here against us poor, earth-bound people can bring absolute fulfillment.
“Or maybe, just maybe, Declan Kidney and the boys have history at their fingers.”Tweet