Before last night’s World Cup semi-final had even begun, there was already a major talking point between the two teams.
In a game that was ultimately won 19-7 by the English and dumped the All Blacks out of the tournament, it was the haka that caught the eye of many - but not for the way the All Blacks performed it. The English players formed an inverted V shape, encircling the All Blacks.
From the grandstand, it certainly looked as though the English had planned the move in advance. Centre Manu Tuilagi confirmed that it was to show the All Blacks that ‘they were ready’.
“It was to accept the challenge and be ready to take the All Blacks head on,” he told us post-match.
“Playing the All Blacks, you can’t wait. They’re the best team in the world. You need to attack them right from the start.”
Flanker Sam Underhill, who had an immense game for the English, said he wasn’t consulted pre-match about the response.
“We spoke about it as players and obviously it’s a big thing culturally for New Zealand. They laid down a marker and we wanted to, respectfully as possible, show them we were up for it,” he said.
The result now means there will be a new World Cup holder for the first time since 2011. It is the All Blacks’ first World Cup loss in 18 tests and they will now play off in the third and fourth playoff next weekend in Tokyo, against the loser of the other semi-final tomorrow between the Springboks and Wales.
Last week Steve Hansen described the game as the ‘loser final’, words he is probably now regretting.