Veteran halfback Will Genia has called for the Wallabies’ indigenous jersey to be worn in every Test match to celebrate Australia being a proudly multi-cultural country.
Genia’s suggestion came as Australian and New Zealand players both leapt to the defence of the All Black’s famous haka, amid yet another faux controversy about the pre-game challenge.
A new book by a British journalist claims to quote former All Blacks prop Kees Meeuws as saying the haka was overused and losing its significance in Test matches.
The All Blacks, who are in Sydney preparing for the opening Bledisloe Cup, shot down the notion of the haka being too commercialised, however and said Meeuws had been misquoted.
Wallabies players said they loved facing the haka, and appreciated its significance in Maori and New Zealand culture.
“It is really special in that regard. How much it is used, that’s up to them,” Australian flanker David Pocock said.
Australian players said they treasured the opportunity to incorporate indigenous Australian culture on the Wallabies jersey last year, when they wore the specially-designed kit against the All Blacks in Brisbane.
The Wallabies beat New Zealand and there was widespread agreement the jersey should be used at least once a year.
When the jersey will be used this season has not yet been decided but it is understood Wallabies officials are considering wearing it against England at Twickenham in November.
Genia believes it should be worn more than once a year, however.
"I would love to wear it all the time. I am not the boss but I certainly think they should think about. Because it is a representation of all our cultures, and I think that part should be emphasised as any other part,” Genia said.
“I felt pretty privileged to wear that jersey in what it represents. Having someone special like Kurtley a part of the group, it has extra significance for this particular group. I love it.”
The Wallabies take huge pride, Genia added, in being a slice of wider Australia: a group of people from many different lands who call Australia home.
“I think that is something really special about Australia. You look at the Wallaby team now there are I think that’s what makes this country a special place and makes it great to be a part of as a representation of that,” Genia said.
“That’s why I think it is important. You probably shouldn’t refer to it as the indigenous jersey, it should just be the Australian jersey, in a sense. Because we are all Australian.”
Genia said criticism of the haka being commercialised was off the mark.
“They don’t do it for commercial purpose. They do it because it is something that is important to them in terms of their culture,” he said.
“From our perspective, we have an incredible amount of respect for it.”
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen launched a defence of the pre-game ritual in response to the debate and players Sam Cane and Ben Smith echoed that passion on Monday.
Cane said he believed Meeuws was misrepresented and the haka was certainly held in as high regard as ever by the All Blacks.
“The only article I've seen around it was on Kees Meeuws and we've been informed that unfortunately he was misquoted so that's a shame,” he said.
“But from an All Blacks point of view we love doing the haka.
“We do a light run through at captain's run and then we bust it out on Saturday and it's like the final touches of we’re ready to go.
“We're well aware of the strong history that it has and it's part of who we are as All Blacks - it's as strong and powerful as ever, in my opinion.”
Fullback Smith disputed the suggestion that the haka was overdone, saying it was still a ‘privilege’ to do it before each match.
“It’s our tradition, it's our history,” he said.
“That's just the way we prepare for a Test match.
“I think it's a massive privilege to be able to do the haka and it would be odd if we weren't to do that before a game.”