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Response to Haka showed England were ready for the fight – Mako Vunipola

Eddie Jones’ men secured a place in the World Cup final with a 19-7 victory over New Zealand.

England faced the New Zealand Haka before the World Cup semi-final (Adam Davy/PA)
England faced the New Zealand Haka before the World Cup semi-final (Adam Davy/PA)

By Duncan Bech, PA England Rugby Correspondent, Yokohama

England knew their challenge to the Haka in the World Cup semi-final had the potential to provoke New Zealand but felt the symbolic gesture was critical in their quest to dethrone the champions.

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Eddie Jones’ men powered into the final with a remarkable 19-7 victory at Yokohama ‘s International Stadium that opened with Manu Tuilagi’s try after just 97 seconds.

An early indication that a special performance was imminent came during the pre-match Haka when England’s squad formed a V formation to face down New Zealand’s arrowhead led by Kieran Read.

Forming the tips were Billy Vunipola and Joe Marler, the prop whose wandering acted as a distraction to the All Blacks, while scrum-half Aaron Smith later revealed that Owen Farrell winked at him throughout.

The act of resistance was devised by Eddie Jones and while England knew it could backfire, Mako Vunipola insists it was vital to serve notice to a team that has not lost a World Cup match since 2007.

“We wanted to be respectful but we wanted to also make sure that they understood that we would be ready for the fight,” Vunipola said.

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England watch the All Blacks perform the Haka ahead of the World Cup semi-final (Mark Baker/AP)

“We just knew that we had to back it up. There have been a few times in the past when the All Blacks have had that done to them but then 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.”

We just knew that we had to back it up. There have been a few times in the past when the All Blacks have had that done to them but then blown the opposition away. Mako Vunipola

Tuilagi echoed Vunipola’s view that it was important to show the All Blacks that England were ready.

“For me it’s an honour to stand in front of the Haka. I watched the Haka growing up as a kid and you try to do it yourself! It was unbelievable,” Tuilagi said.

“It’s the challenge and you accept it and respect it, but we wanted to show that we’re ready, that we’re together and that we’re ready for anything.

“It was just something different. I don’t think it’s the reason we won but it was to show that we accept the challenge.”

Captain Owen Farrell revealed that England’s formation was carefully thought out.

“We knew we had to be within a radius behind them. We didn’t want to just stand there and let them come at us,” Farrell said.

“We wanted to keep a respectful distance and be respectful of that. We didn’t want to just stand in a flat line, letting them come at us.”

PA

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