All Blacks unfazed as Hakarena hits Rugby World Cup headlines
Try as they might to make three All Blacks front rowers say they were offended by Matt Dawson's 'Hakarena', a gaggle of the world's rugby scribes left Lensbury disappointed on Thursday.
Former England halfback Dawson's light-hearted performance of the Haka to 1994 Spanish dance hit Macarena got exactly the reaction British menswear retailer Jacamo wanted when it was released to the public.
Local and international news outlets and social media were immediately awash with the video of Dawson and players from the Battersea Ironsides shaking and wiggling their way through a dance routine, which, more than anything, made them all look very silly.
And there was a predictable and at times farcical follow-up when Keven Mealamu, Charlie Faumuina and Wyatt Crockett fronted a media conference later in the day.
Mealamu fielded the first of a barrage of questions about whether the All Blacks found the Hakarena disrespectful.
"It's actually quite funny seeing him do it," the veteran hooker smiled.
"It's obviously something he's looked at. Haka is a part of what we do, but it's not actually what we do as a rugby team, which is play the game."
The questions kept coming, but a more controversial response wasn't forthcoming.
- Age: 36
- Born: Tokoroa
- Position: Hooker
- Super team: Blues
- Test debut: v Wales, 2002
"It's quite a special part of our culture. We're New Zealanders and it's special to us." Mealamu said.
"It's something [we] do well and look to make sure we respect it."
But surely, an English scribe chimed in, Dawson should have shown more respect than that?
"It's his view on the way he sees it, he sees it differently to us," Mealamu replied, before reiterating how special the haka was to all New Zealanders.
"I started doing the haka when I was four years old in the backyard - not too flash, but I saw my heroes doing it as All Blacks."
Haka controversies are nothing new. At Twickenham, the crowd inevitably does its best to drown out the pre-match ritual with Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.
But while the public and media love nothing more than a good haka controversy, the players have clearly grown tired of a plot line that rears its head every northern tour.
Mealamu's ability to say the same thing multiple times was waning, so the inquisitors turned their attention to Faumuina and Crockett.
"What about you chaps? Have you got a view on whether it was a disrespectful dance?"
"I haven't seen it, but I'm not too fussed about what they're doing," Faumuina said.
"I don't think it worries us too much what people are trying to do. It's what we do for us."
Faumuina was asked again if he thought the haka was "off-limits" when it came to making fun of it, at which point Crockett tried to rescue his teammate - to no avail.
"So clearly it taps very deeply into New Zealand culture. With Matt Dawson's 'Hakarena', has that stirred up any anger on the tour or back home in New Zealand, as far as you are aware?" came what would be the final question on the matter.
Mealamu, the most mild-mannered man in the All Blacks squad, suggested politely that it would be wise to change the subject.
"To be honest, we are here to play rugby and we've got bigger things to worry about."