England’s now-iconic response to the All Blacks’ haka in the Rugby World Cup semifinal did not quite go as planned, several members of the squad have revealed.
According to the Daily Mail, World Cup finalists Ben Youngs, Tom Curry, Manu Tuilagi and Joe Marler admitted that their eventual haka response – which saw the players line up in a V formation – was not what they initially intended.
On a episode of the Jonathan Ross show to air this weekend, the quartet revealed that the idea was sprung the night before the game, but halfback Youngs’ idea was to have the team form a semi-circle.
“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…”
The confused party included Marler, who ended up being one of the English players to break World Rugby’s rules, after stepping over the halfway line.
“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.”
Because of the confusion which saw several players go over halfway, England were fined a four-figure sum by World Rugby. However, despite that, the response still went down well with many fans, and the All Blacks had no problems with it either.
“I thought it was awesome, that’s what the haka is about, it’s a challenge,” said hooker Dane Coles.
“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.”
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen echoed Coles’ view around England’s formation which emulated France’s response in the 2011 World Cup final at Eden Park.
“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.”