England 'didn't want to just stand there' for haka, says Farrell

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.

England watch the All Blacks doing the haka ahead of the start of their Rugby World Cup semifinal match in Yokohama, Japan on 26 October 2019. Picture: @rugbyworldcup/Twitter

YOKOHAMA - Captain Owen Farrell said England didn't want to take a backwards step against New Zealand's haka after they challenged the war dance ahead of their Rugby World Cup semifinal victory.

Joe Marler, one of three players who entered All Blacks territory to stare down the haka, ignored calls from officials to retreat as England stood in an unusual inverted V-formation for the pre-match routine.

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 quarterfinals - 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.