Richard Cockerill urges England fans to drown out ‘sterile’ Haka at Twickenham

Richard Cockerill has urged Twickenham to drown out the Haka when England collide with New Zealand in Saturday’s main event of the autumn.

Cockerill famously confronted All Blacks hooker Norm Hewitt during the Maori war dance in 1997 but England’s forwards coach believes teams are now too deferential towards a ritual he believes has become “sterile”.

When the rivals last met in the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup, Eddie Jones’ men responded with a V-shape formation that had captain Owen Farrell at its apex – and Cockerill would relish similar theatrics in the penultimate assignment of the autumn.

Richard Cockerill facing Norm Hewitt is one of the iconic images of English rugby
Richard Cockerill facing Norm Hewitt is one of the most famous images of English rugby (John Giles/PA)

“It’s a home game and we want a partisan crowd who are on our side. If the fans can drown out the noise of New Zealand doing the Haka then let’s bring it on,” the former Leicester hooker said.

“Is it a challenge or not a challenge? We’ll respect it how we want to respect it. It’s a psychological advantage for them and we will deal with it how we feel is right.

“I have no regrets over what I did and I think it’s a sign of respect for the Maori culture. It’s great theatre and it will be part of a big day.

“I think the Haka has become a little bit sterile and too much is made of it when people do different things towards it. That’s overplayed.

“New Zealand are allowed to do what they want to do and the opposition should be allowed to do what they want to do.”

England and New Zealand have clashed just twice since 2014 due to a quirk of the international fixture schedule, adding to the sense of occasion swirling around Saturday’s showdown.

It will be the first time the Haka has been seen at Twickenham since 2018 and Cockerill said: “The players will deal with it how they see fit.

“Ultimately it’s what we do after the Haka that’s the most important thing. We can all stand up to the Haka but we can’t all do what happens next for the next 80 minutes.

“Personally, when I’ve faced it, it’s been more of a motivator than a demotivator. It didn’t make me scared, it made me more motivated. You have to use that.

“A lot of our guys will have played against New Zealand before so they have seen it, but others are playing them for the first time.

“We respect their team and their culture. Conversely they have to respect what other teams do against it. It’s good, let’s enjoy it.”

England’s 19-7 rout of the champions at the 2019 World Cup hangs over this fixture with the All Blacks determined to end their year on a high by avenging a harrowing day in Yokohama.

Farrell insists that, for New Zealand to be toppled again, the hosts must be able to negotiate spells where their opponents are threatening to cut loose.

“It’s not just your ability to ride a good wave, it’s your ability to accept whatever is happening and be all in,” said Farrell, who wins his 100th cap on Saturday.

“The All Blacks are always in the game. Always. And that’s been ever since I can remember.

“Sometimes they can blow you away at the start, sometimes they can blow you away at the end, sometimes they can blow you away for 80 minutes.

“They’re a top, top team but we want to be in a place to be able to deal with anything because at times they will get momentum and it’s whether we react in the right way so that we wrestle it back as quickly as possible.”