Willie Anderson praises Haka response by Ireland against All Blacks

Former Ireland captain Willie Anderson said the idea to challenge the Haka in 1989 came from then coach Jimmy Davidson
Former Ireland captain Willie Anderson said the idea to challenge the Haka in 1989 came from then coach Jimmy Davidson

Ireland’s victory over the All Blacks on Saturday was a result former Irish captain Willie Anderson would have loved to have secured after his legendary confrontation with the team’s Haka in 1989.

The Irish side made rugby history when they beat once near-invincible New Zealand for the first time ever in Dublin.

Ireland face off against the All Blacks as they do the Haka at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin in Saturday night

Ireland face off against the All Blacks as they do the Haka at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin in Saturday night

Ireland only beat the world champions for the first time in 2016 in the US.

However, rugby aficionados took note when the Irish team stepped forward about a metre towards the Blacks on Saturday as the Kiwis started their fierce pre-match Maori dance, the Haka.

For the Irish response was a subtle version of the same pre-match confrontation in 1989, when captain Willie Anderson had his team link arms and stomp right up to the faces of the Blacks – leaving him almost touching noses with legendary All Black captain Wayne ‘Buck’ Shelford.

“We were nose to nose really,” Willie laughed. “He thought I was going to kiss him, that is what he said afterwards.”

Irish captain Willie Anderson (centre in headband) faces up to New Zealand captain Wayne Shelford as the All Blacks performed the Haka in 1989

Irish captain Willie Anderson (centre in headband) faces up to New Zealand captain Wayne Shelford as the All Blacks performed the Haka in 1989

But last night the former Dungannon and Ulster player, now Elite Player Development Officer with Ulster, deflected any credit for the 1989 spectacle, now part of rugby folklore.

“It was the idea of Jimmy Davidson who was Irish coach at that time who was massively wanting to beat the All Blacks in his lifetime,” Willie said.

“It was his view that the crowd invariably applauds the Haka, so he said, ‘well let’s get the applause for us instead’.”

It worked and the crowd lapped up the gutsy Irish response, the All Blacks suffering serious pressure for 15 minutes before Ireland went down bravely 23-6.

Speaking to the All Blacks afterwards, Willie said they simply considered it a means of picking up their gauntlet.

“On Saturday it was equally effective, the whole Irish line moved forward a metre or two. It got the crowd on the Irish side which was very important and then when the Haka was over, Ireland went and did tackle bag hits. They said to the All Blacks, in effect, ‘hold on, you will wait for us’.”

He would have loved his team to have secured Saturday’s victory.

“For Jimmy Davidson I would love to have had that for ourselves,” he said. “To do it on your own patch where you have never done it before is fantastic against the full New Zealand side.”

Former Ulster and Ireland winger Trevor Ringland played against the Blacks for the Lions in New Zealand in 1983, the Lions suffering a 4-0 test whitewash.

“To get a home victory against them now, I understand the importance; it is really a very sweet thing, because you have to perform at your very best to achieve against them,” he said.

Derek Sufferin, who coached Jacob Stockdale at Wallace High School, Lisburn, paid tribute once again to the outstanding Irish winger, who scored a sublime chip and chase try to seal Saturday’s victory.

“All the Wallace coaches are really proud to have been involved in his development and see him reach such potential,” he said. “No matter how small a part we played.”