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Gatland hints at Haka response

By Graham Thomas

New Zealand performing the haka in their changing room
New Zealand have only once done the Haka in their dressing room

Warren Gatland has hinted Wales are planning their own response to the Haka when they face the All Blacks.

Gatland will face his countrymen for the first time as Wales coach when the teams meet in Cardiff on 22 November.

New Zealand performed the Haka in their own dressing room before their last meeting in 2006 after the two countries clashed over Wales' planned response.

But Gatland said: "The greatest compliment you can pay to the Haka is to respond with a Haka of your own."

Wales are not planning to respond to the Haka, the New Zealand rugby team's famous war-dance, in song - as they wanted to two years ago.

But Gatland has told the BBC's Sport Wales programme there will be a response from the players.

"I don't know whether or not we'll have time to plan one properly," said Wales' Kiwi coach Gatland, who inspired Wales to the Grand Slam in his first Six Nations Championship.

606: DEBATE

"But it's something the players will enjoy the experience of.

"The public and the crowd will also definitely want to see it."

Gatland was part of the All Blacks touring squad in 1989 and insists he found nothing wrong with the famous response to the Haka produced by the Ireland team at Lansdowne Road.

Ireland captain Willie Anderson led his teammates forward in locked-arm formation until they were nose-to-nose with the All Blacks.

Gatland added: "The Irish response that day was fantastic.

"We thought it was great because they stepped forward as a sign that they were there to meet the challenge, they were not going to back down

"Everyone else, particularly in Ireland, thought it was disrespectful but it wasn't."

In 2004 the Welsh response to the Haka was to send tenor soloist Wyn Evans onto the field, waving a flag while he sang Bread of Heaven.

Two years later, Wales wanted to move the anthems so that they followed the Haka.

But the New Zealand management refused to comply and the Haka was performed behind closed doors - although it was filmed and shown both on TV and on the large screens inside the Millennium Stadium.

Welsh Rugby Union stadium manager Gerry Toms insist there are no plans for Wales to try to move the anthems next Saturday or to respond through song.

He said: "At the moment, the last thing I've got in my plans is the Haka before the game then starts.

"Now, whether Wales make a response - they have in the past in different ways - remains to be seen."

* Catch Sport Wales on BBC Two Wales and 2W at 2200 GMT on Thursday

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see also
Haka row fired Blacks - Collins
26 Nov 06 |  Rugby Union
McCaw defends private haka choice
25 Nov 06 |  Rugby Union
Wales 10-45 New Zealand
25 Nov 06 |  Welsh


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