Hands off the haka!

That was the message from two All Blacks on the eve of the World Cup quarter-final against Ireland in Tokyo - after a controversial Irish writer's renewed attack on the traditional challenge.

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Earlier this month, sports journalist and renowned agent provocateur Ewan MacKenna called for a stop to the All Blacks haka, saying it "gives New Zealand an unfair advantage".

In a column titled Haka gives New Zealand an unfair advantage and needs to stop on sports website Pundit Arena, MacKenna asked why the World Cup is still "pandering to the dance".

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"That's unfortunate as New Zealand are justifiably big-headed enough without a massaging of their already massive egos," MacKenna wrote.

"Yet even World Rugby have it in their rules that to not stand on your own 10-metre line and watch a bunch stick out their tongues and slap their thighs is worthy of a fine and a telling off."

At the All Blacks' team-naming media conference on Thursday, captain Kieran Read rejected MacKenna's claims.

"It's as far from the truth as you can get, really. It's not about the opposition, it's about us as the All Blacks and a tradition that it's held for us over 100 years," Read said.

"It's about connecting to guys who have gone before us and [with] the people and the land we're in at that moment. It's a tradition that we keep enjoying and will keep doing."

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The All Blacks have named a full-strength team for their quarter-final clash against Ireland on Saturday. VIDEO/Mark Mitchell

Before the World Cup, the All Blacks made a top-secret visit to the sacred Mt Hikurangi on the East Coast, where they were welcomed by welcomed by Ngāti Porou elders and watched the sun rise.

The All Blacks also performed the Ka Mate and Kapa O Pango hakas at the site.

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All Black first-five Richie Mo'unga was also quizzed on the criticism of the haka.

"The haka's very sacred for us. It energises us. It's not something that the All Blacks came up with, it's something that our ancestors have done before us," Mo'unga said.

"For the Kiwis and Māori in our team, it's something that's really special and we'll continue to keep doing the haka.

"People take different things from it. For us, it connects us as a team and respects those who have gone before us."

In August last year, respected British journalist Peter Bills reignited debate over the role the haka played for the All Blacks in his book The Jersey.

Interviews with ex-All Blacks Sir Colin Meads and Kees Meeuws revealed frustrations about the heavy use of the haka, and the team's mental skills coach, Gilbert Enoka, revealed some All Blacks had previously felt "haka'd out" and some "hated" having to constantly perform the Ka Mate version.

In August 2005, before taking on South Africa in a (then) Tri-Nations match, the All Blacks performed Kapa O Pango for the first time - a haka that had been specially written for the All Blacks.

During the 2015 World Cup, Richie McCaw's men surprised again by lining up in a triangle formation in their opening match against Argentina.

Asked whether the All Blacks planned a special version of the haka for Saturday's make-or-break clash against the Irish, Read said fans would have to "Wait and see".


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