‘Absurd’ haka drama stuns the world
It was probably one of the most anticipated hakas in sporting history and the pre-match theatrics between England and New Zealand before the Rugby World Cup semi-final has delivered in spades.
Last week in the World Cup quarterfinal, Irish fans sang traditional folk song The Fields Of Athenry over the top of the traditional pre-match war dance.
The response was huge from New Zealand, demolishing Ireland with 22-0 halftime score and ultimately a 46-14 win.
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England decided to do something very different moving into a V formation with some players crossing the halfway mark.
Referees pushed the players back with the move illegal under World Rugby rules, which state teams must stand at least 10m apart during the haka after teams attempted to unnerve the All Blacks in previous years.
The Fox Sports commentators were blown away by the drama.
Wallabies legend Phil Kearns said the move was brilliant theatre from England.
"Remember back to the World Cup final in New Zealand (in 2011) when the French formed that arrow head and walked towards them," Kearns said. "I love these teams taking them on. Stay out of it referees, we love it."
On Channel 10, Aussie rugby icon Gordon Bray said "I haven't seen that before".
Fans were also all for the drama, while others were worried they might encourage the wrath of the world's best team.
But the referees, after a long World Cup of criticism, were slammed again for making the English move.
The idea that the officials can tell the opposition what they’re supposed to do during the haka is absurd. Opposition should be able to do whatever they bloody like #NZLvENG— Richard Innes (@bigrichinnes) October 26, 2019
Liking England’s reverse V to welcome the challenge of the Haka. Here we go! #RWC2019— Steve Lai (@stevelai) October 26, 2019
England going with the Mighty Ducks flying V formation against the Haka. #ENGvNZL— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) October 26, 2019
Wallaby great Tim Horan was loving the challenge.
"Here's something new, the referees are asking them to go back over the half way line," he said. "The English aren't moving."
England star Owen Farrell was also spotted smirking at the All Blacks during the haka.
All Blacks legend Andrew Mehrtens also said the English tactic would have surprised the All Blacks.
"New Zealand would have been a little bit surprised but I like it," Mehrtens told the BBC.
"The All Blacks don't want people to be prescribed to, and just sit there and take it. I thought that was fantastic from England."
Rugby commentators labelled the move "provocative".
But it worked as England stunned the All Blacks, crossing the line after just one minute.
And the 10-0 lead at halftime was the first time since 2012 that New Zealand have been held scoreless in the first half of a match with the last match also against England.
In that match, the All Blacks were held to 12-0 as England claimed a 38-21 loss at Twickenham.
There's no way the officials should be telling England where to stand. In just the same way they don't tell New Zealand - "you can't start the Haka yet - we aren't ready".— Matthew Pinsent (@matthewcpinsent) October 26, 2019
This is class, love teams engaging with the Haka. Wish crowds would respect it like they do our second anthem.🤷🏼♂️— luke fitzgerald (@lukefitz11) October 26, 2019
Pretty sure the ABs don't like smiles during the Haka....ouch— Dom Remond (@dremond) October 26, 2019