Rugby World Cup 2015: The All Blacks and the haka

What is the Haka?
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    What is the Haka?


What is the Haka? 03:16

Story highlights

  • New Zealand sports teams often perform haka
  • War dance is closely associated with All Blacks
  • It is a part of the country's cultural heritage

(CNN)Most people start their working day by plowing through a stack of emails. New Zealand's national rugby team performs a war dance.

The haka is designed to strike fear into opposing players, and motivate the All Blacks for the match ahead.
"For me, personally, it was more about us," former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick told CNN. "In terms of New Zealand, our indigenous people, the people that had gone before us that had worn this most amazing jersey, and coming together as one to hopefully defeat the opposition.
    "As we say, it was a great way to start work."
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    The Maori dance has become one of the most recognizable sights in global sport, and has again been on show at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England in recent weeks.
    Originally performed by the indigenous people of New Zealand before going into battle, it is now used to unite the All Blacks team -- many of whom are from different ethnic backgrounds.
    "For me, the haka is a symbol of who we are and where we come from," explains current captain Richie McCaw, whose team is seeking to become the first to successfully defend the World Cup crown.
    "This is who we are. Obviously it comes from a Maori background but I think it also resonates with all Kiwis."
    Maori culture plays an important part in daily life in New Zealand, and since 2002 the haka has been recognized as an official academic subject in the country's schools.
    Ahead of the 2015 World Cup, former England international Matt Dawson released a video -- the "hakarena" -- poking fun at the haka, though the spoof drew widespread criticism. Teams such as England have tried to unsettle the All Blacks by standing at the halfway line and challenging the haka, while others have chosen to ignore it.
    A similar war dance is also performed by rugby teams from the Pacific Islands, such as Tonga, Samoa and Fiji.
    Former All Blacks great Jonah Lomu, widely regarded as rugby's first global superstar, says there should be no holding back when you do the haka.
    "It's a challenge. It's done before you go to battle," said Lomu, the World Cup's joint record try scorer.
    "It's also paying respect to the warriors who used to do it before they went to battle. I make sure I don't disrespect it and make sure you give it your all when you do it."