WATCH: England's 'V' response to intense New Zealand haka
WORLD CUP SPOTLIGHT: Captain Owen Farrell said England didn’t want to take a backwards step against New Zealand’s haka after they challenged the war dance ahead of their World Cup semifinal victory.
Joe Marler, one of three players who entered All Blacks territory to stare down the haka, ignored calls from officials to retreat as England stood in an unusual inverted V-formation for the pre-match routine.
The feisty approach was followed by a storming start by England, who led after less than two minutes through Manu Tuilagi’s try – and ultimately stunned the defending champions 19-7.
Watch the video below:
“We knew we had to be within a radius behind them and we wanted to not just stand there and let them come at us,” Farrell said after the match.
“We wanted to keep a respectful distance and be respectful to that. But we didn’t just want to stand in a flat line letting them come to us.”
Challenging the haka does not always end well, as Ireland discovered when their fans’ chanting drowned it out in the quarter-finals – before New Zealand won 14-46.
In the 2011 Final, France advanced towards the All Blacks in a V-formation, crossing the halfway line. They lost the game 7-8 and were later fined for their approach.
Lock Courtney Lawes revealed to reporters afterwards that Farrell had suggested the idea to the players a couple of days before the match and they felt it was a good way to “show their mindset.
However, he said far from intimidating the All Blacks, it may have had the effect of firing them up even further.
“I kind of felt that it made them more up for it. As soon as we started moving towards them, they accepted the challenge,” said Lawes.
“That was the first moment you get in front of them so it was important for us to show that we weren’t taking a backward step regardless,” said Lawes.
However, he played down the impact on the early stages of the game, despite England’s barnstorming beginning.
Countering the haka was “not really part of the gameplan,” said Lawes.
“They can’t score any tries off it.”