Aussies expect early onslaught
THE All Blacks will throw down the traditional gauntlet when they perform the haka before tonight's opening Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship clash against the Wallabies at Sydney's ANZ Stadium.
All the chanting, chest-beating, eye-rolling and tongue poking during the spine-tingling pre-match war dance is enough to make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck - even more so if they perform the Kapa O Pango, a version that includes a throat-slitting action.
Unfazed by the display, Australian and Queensland lock Rob Simmons will be standing the regulation 10m away on the Wallabies side of the halfway line - as the International Rugby Board insists every side does when facing a haka - lapping up the challenge.
"The haka is the haka and it's one of the most iconic sights in sport," said Simmons, named to start tonight for only the ninth time in 27 Tests.
"There is no lack of tradition and history behind it, as I discovered when I toured New Zealand as a 15-year-old, and although it looks fierce, it does not scare me.
"It represents the laying down of a challenge to the opposition, and the way I look at it is that you step up and respond."
Accepting the challenge is something Simmons and his teammates need to do.
The Wallabies last won the Bledisloe Cup in 2002 and Simmons - who earned the first of his Test caps against the Springboks in Brisbane in 2010 - said the key to ending that unwanted statistic started at soon as the haka ended.
"We must be switched on from kick-off because they can punish you in the first 20 minutes or so," he said.
"Traditionally, they start hard and fast - we have got to match it with them all over the field otherwise they will make us pay for it on the scoreboard.
"The battle in the forwards will be brutal for sure, but I am looking forward to it. Being physical is my job."
Simmons will be playing against the All Blacks for the eighth time in his career tonight, having won against them only once - the 25-20 triumph in Brisbane in 2011.
"Ewen (coach McKenzie) has prepared us well, and the plans are in place, although he (McKenzie) is always thinking about things - he's always likely to come up with something else," Simmons said with a laugh.
"We are feeling great. We just want to get out there now."