Haka snub sparks All Black fury

Last updated 00:00 09/09/2007

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All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu revealed Italy paid a heavy price for snubbing the haka in their World Cup opener.

In a controversial and disrespectful move, Italy chose to turn their backs on the Mealamu led haka and went into a team huddle.

Mealamu told Sunday News that this was the spark to fire up the team for the early onslaught that took Italy out of the game before it had barely began.

"The first 20 minutes of the game explained how we felt about it to be honest," Mealamu said.

"It would have been nice if they could have faced us and it was a bit different to see them turn their backs to us.

"In the first 20 minutes we really wanted to express how we felt and we did that."

It was the first time Mealamu had led the haka for the All Blacks and it?s a sad indictment on the Italians that they made a premeditated decision to give it the cold shoulder.

But regardless of the Italians' actions, Mealamu said it was an experience he'll never forget.

"Hopefully it went alright, the boys said it went OK," he smiled.

"I had said if the boys were ever looking for someone to do it I'd put my hand up if the opportunity came around.

"I'm really proud about it, it's not every day you get to do that. It was a really proud moment."

But the joy among the team has been tempered by the news about Steve Hansen's mother Lauriss, who has suffered a heart attack, meaning he'll return to New Zealand to be by her side.

Mealamu said it was the right decision by the team's forwards coach to return home.

"At the end of the day, although we play rugby family comes first," he said.

"I'm not to sure how well his mother is, but if he has to be at home with his mother then that's the best thing for him.

"The team will carry on, we've got enough leaders to take over and fill in while he's not here."

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- Sunday News