Japan wary of the haka

(Rugby News Service) Monday 12 September 2011
Japan wary of the haka
John Kirwan has a plan to counter New Zealand's haka

AUCKLAND, 12 Sept. - Japan coach John Kirwan has a secret plan to counter the haka when the Brave Blossoms face world No.1 New Zealand in a Pool A encounter on Friday in Hamilton.

The top try scorer for the All Blacks at the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup, Kirwan said on Monday he is more than wary of the intimidating effects New Zealand's pre-game, Maori challenge has on opposing teams.

Kirwan and the Japan players know they cannot let the hosts stamp their seal of authority on the game even before it kicks off.

The last time Japan played New Zealand at the RWC in 1995, the All Blacks won by a record score of 145-17.

"My job is to prepare the team for everything this week," Kirwan said. "I have a plan for that, but I want to leave it internally in the team.

"The All Blacks get inside the head of a lot of teams with the haka," added wing Takehisa Usuzuki. "We can't let it get to us so we can play to the best of our ability.

"I've obviously seen it on TV a number of times and I know it's pretty powerful stuff."

Against the All Blacks, Japan will be trying follow up on their crowd-pleasing display in Saturday's 47-21 loss to France at North Harbour Stadium.

Japan had pulled within four points of France at one point in the second half until Les Bleus bagged three late tries to cement the victory.

Japan's confidence has clearly been given a boost by the France game.

"I don't want to be seen as having a big mouth, but from what I saw of them in the opening game, I think we've got a chance," prop Nozomu Fujita said, referring to New Zealand's 41-10 win over Tonga in the opening game.

"I'm really looking forward to playing them."

RNS sk/gy/ar