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.
Eddie Jones’ men powered into the final with a remarkable 19-7 victory at Yokohama 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 insisted it was vital to serve notice to a team that has not lost a World Cup match since 2007.
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“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. “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.”
– Press Association
WATCH: RugbyPass reporter Sam Smith gauges fan reaction at the stadium in Yokohama following England’s win over New Zealand
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