CARDIFF - The All Blacks are standing staunchly by their dressing room haka, saying they weren't prepared to be "bullied" by a stubborn Welsh Rugby Union (WRU).
Criticism in the British press today was evenly shared between the WRU and the All Blacks which culminated in the New Zealand team performing their Ka Mate haka under the bowels of Millennium Stadium yesterday before the test against Wales, won 45-10.
Assistant coach Steve Hansen said while it was a shame for the 74,000-strong crowd and those watching on television, the All Blacks were never going to bow to WRU demands that the haka precede the Welsh national anthem.
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"At the end of the day this is a team that makes its own decisions, it's not going to bullied around by anybody, especially over something as dear to them as the haka," Hansen said.
"It's disappointing but at the end of the day that's what they did. We're comfortable with our decision because we don't believe the haka should be played around with.
"Doing it between two national anthems is a cop-out. It's trying to interfere with tradition and the culture of the team and we weren't prepared to put up with it."
Hansen said he could understand those critical of the New Zealanders -- such as some British journalists and former Welsh prop Graham Price, who today described the indoor haka as "pompous" and a disgrace as paying fans lost out.
Hansen said the team had deliberately allowed a television camera into the dressing room to give the public a degree of access.
"It was a little bit controversial because you're mucking around with something that's been a tradition for 100 years," Hansen said.
"The same comments could be thrown at the Welsh Rugby Union."
Hansen, familiar with how Welsh rugby is run after more than four years as national coach or assistant coach, wasn't surprised to learn six weeks ago that the WRU was seeking to repeat the protocol of last year, when the Welsh anthem was the final act before kickoff to mark the Wales-New Zealand centenary.
NZPA understands All Blacks management was frustrated the WRU never gave a coherent reason for wanting to change the traditional protocol again, with the explanations constantly changing over six weeks of negotiation.
Management was also angry the WRU had gone back on an agreement last year that the change would be a one-off.
"We just quietly talked about it, we tried to have a common sense approach and talk to them about it. Those talks continued right up to the day of the game," Hansen said.
All Blacks fullback Mils Muliaina described the atmosphere in the dressing room as "intense" in the leadup to the haka in front of non-playing teammates and coaches.
"It fired us up even more, we just wanted to get out and do the job," Muliaina said.
"It would have been nice to do it, it's quite sad that we didn't, but in saying that, the haka's about us, it's not usually about motivation but unfortunately today it was because it was taken away from us."