England botched haka challenge
WORLD CUP SPOTLIGHT: It may have been the most iconic response to a haka the All Blacks have seen in a number of years, but it has been revealed by members of the England squad that the idea of advancing towards their opponents wasn’t formulated until “the night before”.
Ben Youngs, Tom Curry, Manu Tuilagi and Joe Marler appeared on The Jonathan Ross Show to talk about their recent World Cup campaign in Japan, where they finished runners-up after losing 12-32 to South Africa in the Final.
A week beforehand, England crushed New Zealand 19-7 in their semifinal clash, but Youngs revealed that the infamous V-shape that they formed against the All Blacks prior to kick-off wasn’t meant to unfold as it did.
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“We met the night before and we said it’s a challenge and we want to face the challenge and make sure they know we are up for it so let’s get into a semi-circle,” Youngs said.
“A few lads were still confused.”
It was here where Marler interjected to try and help his perplexed teammates.
“The issue was, Ben drew it up the night before… He got up and he did it on a flipchart and he marked it all out with Xs and Os,” Marler said.
“The issue I had with it is I look at that board and thought, ‘It’s not to scale’… I thought we were meant to be closer than what the picture said.
“[I went over the line] which I thought we were all going to do but then I looked back and they weren’t doing it but I thought, I’ve already committed now.”
England were fined a four-figure sum for crossing the halfway mark, but their response to the All Blacks’ challenge evoked praise from a raft of rugby personalities, including players, coaches and commentators.
“I thought it was awesome, that’s what the haka is about, it’s a challenge,” Kiwi hooker Dane Coles said in the wake of the loss.
“They walked forward. I know all the boys were pumped for it we were looking around like ‘let’s go’.
“From an All Blacks perspective, we didn’t think it was bad. We thought it was awesome.”
Even departing coach Steve Hansen praised the move.
“I thought their response was fantastic,” Hansen said. “They didn’t get fined for responding for doing what they did, they got fined because they went over halfway. Everyone knows you’re not allowed to come over the halfway.
“You’ve got to get reality here. Joe didn’t go back when he got told two or three times. I thought the response was brilliant.
“If you understand the haka, the haka requires a response. It’s a challenge to you personally and it requires you to have a response. I thought it was brilliant, quite imaginative too.”