Face off

'Farrell was giving me a few winks' - England invite pressure with haka response

Eddie Jones’ side knew they would have to back up their pre-match actions.

ENGLAND HAD A plan for the haka, although Joe Marler seemingly wasn’t fully sure about how far he was supposed to go.

While several of his team-mates joined him in breaking the halfway line to enter New Zealand territory, Marler kept on going and almost looked set to join the Kiwis until referee Nigel Owens waves him back.

england-v-new-zealand-2019-rugby-world-cup-semi-final-international-stadium-yokohama Owen Farrell facing the haka. Ashley Western Ashley Western

England may face a fine for advancing so close to the Kiwis and loosehead prop Mako Vunipola joked that Marler will now have to pay up if that is the case.

“He said he got confused,” explained Vunipola after his side’s stunning 19-7 win over the All Blacks to earn a place in the World Cup final.

“He thought he was supposed to go all the way around it and go to their 10-metre line.

“But because of that, he’s the one who has to pay the fine. He dishes it out a lot so the boys would be more than happy if he has to pay it! Joe did the right thing and we’ve just got to follow him up.”

Doing something different against the haka had been part of England’s planning for this semi-final, with Eddie Jones’ men keen not to simply stand in a line and let the Kiwis come at them.

Instead, they formed a V-shape and entered the New Zealand half, something that head coach Eddie Jones had encouraged.

“We talked about it as a team but obviously everything has to get past the boss,” said Vunipola.

“He gave us the idea. We wanted to be respectful but we wanted to also make sure that they understood that we would be ready for the fight.”

Crucially, England invited pressure onto themselves to deliver after their pre-match stand.

“We just knew that we had to back it up,” said Vunipola. “There have been a few times in the past when the All Blacks have done that and blown the opposition away. We put accountability on ourselves to back it up and I thought we did. 

“We knew it would rile them up, it probably felt like we disrespected them. We meant no offence by it, we just wanted to let them know that we were ready for the challenge ahead. And they let us know in the first couple of contacts.

“It was a ferocious contest, which is what you expect. I’m just very proud and happy for the boys.”

Faz Owen Farrell facing the haka.

At the heart of the England formation for the haka was captain Owen Farrell, who showed his commitment to the cause by playing on with what appeared to be a dead leg in the first half.

The threatening grin on Farrell’s face didn’t go unnoticed by the Kiwis as they performed their haka.

“We do it for us, to represent our people, to represent New Zealand. The All Blacks have been doing it for 110 years,” said scrum-half Aaron Smith post-match.

“I didn’t really notice what was going on. I was looking at the guy straight opposite me and that was Owen Farrell. He was giving me a few winks.” 

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