5 Best Renditions of New Zealand's Haka

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2013

5 Best Renditions of New Zealand's Haka

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    Phil Walter/Getty Images

    The haka is an ancestral Maori dance performed as a form of ritual by the New Zealand national team in the build-up to their matches and sometimes in victory, too.

    Although other Pacific Island nations have a similar equivalent, it's the rousing rendition of the All Blacks that truly strikes deepest among rugby audiences, cementing its place as one of the most unanimously admired aspects of the international game.

    As New Zealand grows as a rugby power, the war cry never fails to invigorate, and whether it's as a result of their opposition's response or the intensity of the dance itself, here are the finest of the lot.

5. One Pitch, Two Hakas

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    In Pacific Island terms, this 2003 World Cup meeting of mass between New Zealand and Tonga is the equivalent of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.

    Of course, the All Blacks far outweigh their local opponents in terms of rugby pedigree, but their war cry is where Tonga can stake a claim as having a level playing field with their bitter rivals.

    Tonga's haka differs significantly in style to New Zealand's, but the sheer emotion and desire for victory is on display for all to see with one of the dances, never mind two.

4. Ireland Face Up to the Fear

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    In its simplest terms, the haka is a scare tactic use by New Zealand, with the intention to strike fear within one's opponent before a ball has even been kicked.

    There is a debate within the rugby community as to whether the ancestral dance is something to watch in respect or if those being subjected to the targeted fear are within their rights to face up in kind.

    In 1989, an Ireland team playing in its own territory went with the latter, with Willie Anderson leading the hosts' line as they attempt to grab the bull by the horns.

3. France vs. New Zealand: 2011 Rugby World Cup Final

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    The most prestigious of rugby stages, there's no occasion where the Maori haka will mean more to any New Zealand player than in a World Cup final.

    Through their extraordinary talents, New Zealand have had as many opportunities to showcase this as any other national team.

    In the most recent finale, France thought it prudent to show that they weren't willing to back down from their Southern Hemisphere opponents, not for the first time in their history.

2. Wales' Mexican Standoff

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    One of the most iconic moments in international rugby, Wales quite literally stood up to the haka after it was performed at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium in 2008.

    The then-Grand Slam champions stood motionless for about two minutes, despite protests from the referee urging the home outfit to get along with the game, New Zealand all the while slightly clueless as to why their victims weren't cowering in fear.

    In the end, Wales would go on to lose 29-9 in their own capital, but the pre-match spectacle was nonetheless a marvel to behold.

1. France's 2007 Faceoff

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    The first occasion in which France were noted for their dramatic haka reaction, the 2007 Rugby World Cup quarter-final meeting between the two is the most intense reaction a team has ever given to the All Blacks' war cry staple.

    Lined up in one long, blue, white and red row, the French slowly edge their way towards the Maori behemoths ahead, showing that there are no psychological advantages to be had here.

    Perhaps the most memorable aspect of this entire struggle is the towering figure of Sebastien Chabal calmly eyeing his opponents with the deadest of stares, mentally readying himself for the battle ahead.

    It had the desired effect, too, as France would go on to that year's semi-final before losing to England at the Stade de France.