Kiwis given all clear for throat-slitting haka
New Zealand have received permission from Maori elders to perform the controversial throat-slitting gesture during the haka on their tour of Britain, according to co-captain Issac Luke.
The Kiwis unveiled the haka before a 34-16 win over Leeds at Headingley in which co-captain Adam Blair (calf) and centre Jordan Kahu (groin) were injured and new halves Peta Hiku and Tui Lolohea opened their tenures tentatively.
The thumb-to-the throat gesture at the end of the haka was abandoned by the All Blacks in recent years after attracting international criticism.
"That's the All Blacks, that's different from us," Luke told NRL.com.
"The elders got into it (then) but we were able to explain it to them. And too right, they have every right (to have a say).
"You have to run a lot of things by them, especially being able to explain people's ethnicities. We had someone come across and we sat down and explained it.
"It was built from within the players – it represents everyone within the team. We have different cultures and backgrounds.
"The ethnicity... we have Polynesians, we had Shaun (Johnson), he was Laos, Maori, Pakeha or European ... It's being able to put them under the same roof and represent them and their background as well."
The famous war cry was actually performed twice on Friday night – before the match and at full-time with Leeds' New Zealanders Kylie Leuluai and Ali Lauitiiti, in front of the famously vocal South Stand.
The formula of having Lauitiiti and Adrian Morley guest for the Rhinos was a success on a tumultuous evening which saw 20,158 fans stage something of a homecoming party for the Super League champions.
The all star home team led twice in the first half and stayed in touch until the final quarter, with the injection of Brisbane's Kodi Nikorima turning the tide in the tourists' favour and fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck finishing with a try brace.
Brisbane's Kahu and Blair face fitness battles during the Kiwis' training camp in France this week ahead of the First Test at KC Stadium, Hull. Forward Blair was forced off and try scorer Kahu played no part in the second half.
"Jordy had a bit of a sore groin during the warm-up – he went out and played the first half but we didn't want to take any risks," said Kearney.
Lock Martin Taupau described the performance as "not up to our standards" but coach Stephen Kearney reckoned it was "hard to get a read on" his new halves combination.
"Particularly in the first half – we didn't get much clean ball," he said. "But in the second half, I thought they were a lot better.
"That's something we'll work on this week in preparation for next week."
Morley, who played the final match of a stellar career less than a week after climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, said he favoured England in the coming Test series based on the home advantage.