The All Blacks haka meets the Tongan Sipi Tau for the third time in World Cup history tomorrow morning - and the sight of the duelling pre-match showdowns will be a riveting spectacle for the 50,000 plus supporters at Newcastle's iconic St James' Park - and the millions watching via television.

It will be the only time in the tournament that both teams will perform a pre-match "cultural challenge", as World Rugby quaintly call the haka and Tonga's Sipi Tau.

Most interest will lie in whether the teams perform their hakas at the same time and advanced on each other as they did when they electrified Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium in a pool match clash at the 2003 World Cup in Australia.

The same two teams opened the World Cup in Auckland four years ago. But on that occasion the All Blacks let the Tongan's perform their Sipi Tau before Piri Weepu then led a stirring rendition of the Ka Mate haka.


Sadly, with Steve Hansen leaving Tongan-born Charles Piutau out of the All Blacks World Cup squad, the match will not feature a brother on either side. Charles represented Tonga at under-20 level and big brother Siale Piutau has been named to face the New Zealanders as he did in the 2011 Cup opener.

And spare a thought for Malakai Fekitoa who is the ninth All Blacks player born in Tonga. He will watch the hakas and match from the grandstand at St James' after being left out of the match squad of 23.

"The Sipi Tau has always changed in terms of the lyrics," Siale Piutau told broadcaster ESPN. "It's not universal like the haka, where all teams use Ka Mate everywhere. For Tonga, it's always been different hakas used before games; ones that have been made up at the last minute and changed slightly all the time.

"What ends up happening is that management will say, 'Oh, we don't want these words in the haka, can you adjust it a bit?' It's still a war dance but most of it is just declaring God's strength over Tonga and repeating the motto of Tonga, which is 'Guard in Tonga my inheritance'. Then as a team we just have to adjust the words to suit our goals at the time.

"It really does pump you up, screaming at the top of the lungs and seeing the guys opposite you just standing there. At the same time, it can go against teams; you can lose your focus and get so wrapped up in the emotion of it. Come kick-off time, someone can do something silly and everyone's not on the same page. We're still trying to work out what we can do after the Sipi Tau to make sure everyone is calm and ready to go. It's key to get the emotion out of things."

The All Blacks hosted a big crowd of spectators at their training facility - a large club stadium on the outskirts of Darlington, with Read saying he had been impressed with the level of support the team had received. "We've had a great week down in Darlington. The support we've had from the locals ... we had close to 5000 people turn up to see us train and do a few skills and things. We certainly know we're making an impact on the communities over here which is what we want to do."

Piutau said he did not know if the All Blacks would wait until after Tonga had completed the Sipi Tau before responding or do their haka at the same time as had happened in 2003.

"I think for the island nations because it's a war dance you pretty much expect to do it at the same time," says Piutau. "It's a face-off. I think now when the All Blacks do it to nations that don't have a haka, they accept it and take the challenge that way. We were thinking they would do it at the same time (in 2011), but they stood there and accepted the Sipi Tau and so we stood there and accepted the challenge from the haka. It's great drama."
No matter what happens, the capacity crowd at St James' Park is set for a treat.