After a week of speculation over how England would respond to the All Blacks haka and whether they would mount a serious challenge during the Rugby World Cup semifinal, the answer couldn’t have been any clearer ahead of kickoff.
Owen Farrell’s team lined up in front of the traditional challenge in V formation and had to be told to retreat by officials when they moved too close to the All Blacks.
Farrell was caught on camera with a big smirk on his face as Kieran Read led his troops in the Kapa O Pango.
English rugby fans also tried their best to drown out the haka at the International Stadium in Yokohama City, with a stirring rendition of Swing Low Sweet Chariot.
Much as the Irish supporters did ahead of the quarter-final a week earlier, the English appeared to sing through the entire pre-match haka.
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It was, however, the English V-shape and Farrell’s smirk, that got social media buzzing.
The All Blacks’ haka itself was called “terrifying” by some fans.
This follows after a week of former English players and media personalities making their opinions about the haka very clear.
James Haskell, a former England flanker turned MMA fighter, said countries are too obsessed with the All Blacks, adding that the haka is only intimidating if you let it be.
“The biggest thing a lot of countries do is they become obsessed with them,” said Haskell.
“Fans talk all about the haka. All they talk about is ‘it must be intimidating to face the haka’. It’s actually not … when 15 men are dancing in front of you, you just want to go beat them up.”
English football legend Gary Lineker took shots at the haka after the All Blacks’ dominant performance against Canada earlier in the tournament. After the All Blacks performed the haka before their 63-0 demolition of Canada, Lineker tweeted: “Must be so hard not to just laugh at this if you’re the opposition.” He later deleted the tweet.
However, heading into the game, England midfielder Manu Tuilagi said he was looking forward to receiving the All Blacks’ challenge.
“It’s an honour to stand there in front of the haka and accept the challenge,” he said in Tokyo earlier in the week. “You respect it. I grew up watching it on TV and to finally stand in front of it is amazing.”