New Zealand rugby team’s haka, a traditional war-dance, is a menacing sight not just for the opposition but even for those sitting in the stadium or watching it on television. The hair-raising experience is arguably unmatched when it comes to intimidation in the world of sport but on Saturday, England fought fire with fire and stared down the New Zealand players like few have done before. England players refused to back down with the haka in full flow, instead choosing to encroach into the All Blacks territory in an unusual inverted V-formation for the pre-match routine. So much so that the officials had to step in and ask the England players to move back.
Technically, the team facing the haka has to be at least 10 metres from the performance — a regulation brought in to stop spectacles like when France marched towards them.
The match officials attempted to usher some of the England players — who were in the All Black half — back behind their line.
And while they did take a few steps backwards, England players led by captain Owen Farrell, who was seen smirking, continued to stare down the fearsome haka.
The entire incident was caught on camera:
The feisty approach was followed by a storming start by England, who led after less than two minutes through Manu Tuilagi’s try — and ultimately stunned the defending champions 19-7.
“We knew we had to be within a radius behind them and we wanted to not just stand there and let them come at us,” Farrell said after the match.
“We wanted to keep a respectful distance and be respectful to that. But we didn’t just want to stand in a flat line letting them come to us.”
Challenging the haka does not always end well, as Ireland discovered when their fans’ chanting drowned it out in the quarter-finals — before New Zealand won 46-14.
In the 2011 final, France advanced towards the All Blacks in a V-formation, crossing the halfway line. They lost the game 8-7, and were later fined for their approach.
(With AFP Inputs)