Rugby Union: Hackles raised because of haka

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AUSTRALIA, the world champions, say that the traditional pre- match chant of their New Zealand rivals is too confrontational. The Maori haka chant, an All Black taunt before every international, will be on the agenda of a meeting today between the two countries' officials in Wellington, New Zealand.

The dispute over the haka arose after the Wallabies confronted the All Blacks by standing in front of them and 'eyeballing' them during the chant before the start of a Test last July, a practice begun by the Irish in 1989.

The Australian coach, Bob Dwyer, said that the haka was used as an intimidatory tactic. 'I think it gives one team an unfair advantage,' he said.

'We don't want to ban it, but we think they should direct it towards the crowd rather than the opposing team,' Greg Campbell, a spokesman for the Australian Rugby Football Union, said. 'It is too confrontational.'

The ARFU has in turn received complaints about the Australians' 'eyeballing' of the All Blacks during the haka.

Ireland initiated the staring tactic to negate any psychological advantage the All Blacks hoped to secure in their 1989 contest.

The world record try-scorer, David Campese, was one of the few Australian players not to stand up to the All Blacks during their chant in last year's series. The winger warmed up near the goalposts - unintimidated and uninterested.

Australia, who beat the All Blacks 2-1 in last year's Test series to regain the Bledisloe Cup, will play only one Test this year, in New Zealand on 17 July.

Ways of further loosening rugby union's strict rules on amateurism will also be discussed at the meeting in Wellington.

The New Zealand Rugby Football Union chairman, Eddie Tonks, believes there is room for further relaxation of the reinstatement laws which were 'softened' slightly by the International Rugby Board last year.

Changes were initiated by New Zealand and Australia with support from countries like Wales, where the sport had been affected by players switching to professional rugby league.

Tonks said the meeting may discuss the possibility of players reinstated to rugby union after playing rugby league being eligible to play up to provincial or state level.

'I think we can look at relaxing the laws a bit further, maybe up to a level where players can play provincial level again,' he said.