The Hakarena is a cultural insult. It is a sad reflection of 19th century attitudes. It is an affront to decent thinking rugby folk of all nationalities. It should be treated as such.
The Hakarena is intended as an English response to the intimidation of the All Black haka. Former English player Matt Dawson has fronted a group of English rugby players performing a parody of the haka.
He is eager for the English fans to do likewise during All Black games. Mr Dawson and his team gyrate their hips and swivel their bottoms in unison to a 1980s pop song. It is appalling. It is very funny. It reveals a sad appreciation of history and colonial legacy.
Rugby has its origins in English private boys' schools in the early 19 th century. William Webb Ellis was a student at Rugby school. He is reputed to have picked up the ball during a soccer game and run with it. This initiated a new game of football that came to be known as rugby union. The formal rules of rugby union were first codified in 1845. This was well before the rules of association football or "soccer" were formally written down.
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Rugby was popular in private boys' schools in 19th century England because of its physicality. It provided a tiring outlet for the boys that distracted them from other pursuits regarded as less savoury. Winter nights in 19th century male boarding schools were long, cold and dull. Victorian morals were exceedingly restrictive. Best to tire the boys out least they indulge in other unsavoury nocturnal activities. The British Empire was run by the graduates of these institutions. Moral fibre was crucial.
It took the colonies such as South Africa, New Zealand and Australia to turn this English boarding school game into a real sporting pursuit. In the 19th century, many economic activities in these colonies involved gangs of males engaged in such harsh physical occupations as forestry, mining and bush clearance. This made a bruising team sport such as rugby very appealing and easy to organise. It soon caught on to the point where the colonies came to dominate the sport.
Mr Dawson's Hakarena may be an attempt to drag the game of rugby back to its private boys' school English origins. Let's hope not. The game has moved on.
Former colonies such as South Africa , New Zealand and Australia have turned it into a proper sporting pursuit. It is no longer a healthy moral distraction for boys attending private English boarding schools.
But it is understandable that there is a degree of resentment towards the All black haka. The English equivalent is the Morris Dance. Having the opposition prancing around with bells on their shoes and hankies on their heads would definitely be unsettling.
Responding to the haka with an enthusiastic Morris dance would certainly be a television spectacle worth watching. Having the English fans shake their hips and swivel their bums to the tune of a really bad eighties pop song is hugely preferable. Let the games begin.
Peter Lyons teaches at St Peter's College in Epsom and is a regular contributor to NZ Herald.