Haka: Owen Farrell says England had to stand up to New Zealand in semi-final

England had lost their previous six meetings with the All Blacks before their semi-final win
England had lost their previous six meetings with the All Blacks before their semi-final win

Captain Owen Farrell says England planned their response to the haka to show New Zealand they would not have things all their own way in their Rugby World Cup semi-final.

England's players lined up in a V formation to receive the challenge, with Farrell seemingly smiling during the All Blacks' performance.

"We didn't just want to stand in a flat line and let them come at us," he said.

England scored a try within two minutes, eventually winning 19-7.

They will play either Wales or South Africa, who contest the second semi-final on Sunday, in next Saturday's final.

The tone for a ferocious encounter was set when England broke from the customary shoulder-to-shoulder stance and instead lined up in a V shape, with two prongs projecting towards the New Zealanders, to receive the haka.

England receive the haka
New Zealand's arrowhead formation, with captain Kieran Read at the point, contrasted with England's response

World Rugby rules stipulate teams must remain within their own half of the pitch to receive the challenge and referee Nigel Owens and his team had to usher several England players back as they strayed over halfway.

"Everyone wanted to show that we were ready and together. It was something different that I think Eddie [Jones] suggested," said centre Manu Tuilagi.

"We wanted to go at them early doors and that is the first part of the game, isn't it?" added flanker Tom Curry.

Referee Nigel Owens and his team ushered England's players back inside their own half
Referee Nigel Owens and his team ushered England's players back inside their own half

While New Zealand captain Kieran Read said England's haka reception had "no impact" on the match, All Black scrum-half Aaron Smith admitted the sight of Farrell spurred him on during the pre-match display.

"The All Blacks have been doing it for 110 years," he said. "It's about us; I didn't really notice them.

"I was looking at the guy straight opposite me and that was Owen Farrell. He was giving me a few winks so I was trying to scare him as much as I could."

Former England scrum-half Matt Dawson was at first sceptical but felt that England's stance had worked in the end.

"From minute one, from the kick-off, from the haka, England were mentally in the right spot to throw something on the All Blacks," he told BBC Radio 5 Live. "With the pressure they put on New Zealand, you saw them start to crack."

It is not the first time that New Zealand's opponents have faced down the haka with a challenge of their own.

France advance on the haka in 2007 Rugby World Cup
Before World Rugby introduced rules mandating how close the two teams could come to each other during cultural challenges, France chose to advance on the haka in 2007

The last time that the three-time winners lost a World Cup match was in 2007 when France, wearing red, white and blue T-shirts to form their national flag, advanced as one to eyeball the All Blacks.

They won the quarter-final 20-18.

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