Ireland captain: We respect the haka, but it is a 'sideshow'

Ireland will reject any Willie Anderson-style challenges to the haka ahead of their test in Chicago, instead focusing on last-minute mental preparation.

Captain Rory Best will not lead his side into the kind of nose-to-nose confrontation that Anderson produced with All Black Wayne Shelford in 1989.

Ireland's players linked arms before that 23-6 Dublin defeat, advancing on the All Blacks mid-haka - yet Best insisted Joe Schmidt's men treat the ceremonial war dance with full respect but as a "sideshow".

"Because there have been a few incidents they don't allow you to go past the 10m line anyway," Best said. "So we'll just line up and I think everyone will deal with it in their own way.

"Some people will watch it, respect it. Other people will be looking at it but in their own head they'll be rehearsing their own roles. For me it will be going through plays to make sure that when the game kicks off I am in the best possible place to win the game for Ireland.

"Because ultimately that is what it is all about. The haka is a great spectacle, a great sideshow for supporters.

"My kids absolutely love to watch it whenever we are at home. For us as players though, it's a sideshow. All that matters to us is the kick- off, the game, and all that comes after that."

Still without a win in 111 years against New Zealand, Ireland came within a whisker of ending that hoodoo in 2013.

But Ryan Crotty's overtime try and Aaron Cruden's touchline conversion snatched New Zealand a 24-22 victory.

Former Ulster lock Anderson won 27 caps between 1984 and 1990, with that challenge to the haka among his standout test moments.

A young Best was in the Lansdowne Road stands when Anderson and Shelford faced off amid the Haka, and admitted that moment remains imprinted on his mind.

"I remember Willie Anderson when they charged the Haka; it was all about blood and thunder for as long as the engine would hold out and then (they were) just gallant losers at the end," said Best.

"That's not being disrespectful to those teams. The professional era has changed that."

- AAP

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