England rugby players admit they messed up their response to New Zealand haka

George Flood
Evening Standard
AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images

It was one of the most defining moments of their run to the Rugby World Cup Final in Japan, but England's players have conceded that they actually made a mistake in their response to New Zealand's famous pre-match haka.

England stunned the reigning world champions 19-7 in the semi-finals in Yokohama last month, with a large proportion of the post-match discussion relating to what happened before kick-off.

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Instead of forming the usual straight line in response to the All Black haka, Eddie Jones's side instead fanned out across the pitch in V-formation, with players crossing the halfway line and then appearing reluctant to return to their own side when instructed by officials.

England - who went on to lose to South Africa in the final - were subsequently fined by World Rugby for a breach of "World Cup tournament rules relating to cultural challenges, which states that no players from the team receiving the challenge may advance beyond the halfway line".

However, during an appearance on ITV's Jonathan Ross Show set to be aired on Saturday night, England's players admitted they actually meant to form a semi-circle, but just got their bearings wrong.

"We met the night before and we said it's a challenge and we want to face the challenge and make sure they know we are up for it, so let's get into a semi-circle," said scrum-half Ben Youngs.

Prop Joe Marler - one of the players who appeared to cross the halfway line in defiance - added: "The issue was, Ben drew it up the night before . . . he got up and he did it on a flipchart and he marked it all out with Xs and Os.

"The issue I had with it is I look at that board and thought, 'It's not to scale' . . . I thought we were meant to be closer than what the picture said.

"[I went over the line], which I thought we were all going to do but then I looked back and they weren't doing it but I thought, 'I've already committed now'."

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