Owen Farrell says his team’s response to the All Blacks’ haka was England laying down their own challenge before the epic encounter in Yokohama.
As the All Blacks prepared to perform the famous Maori war dance, the England players aligned themselves in what appeared to be a reverse arrowhead formation, with Farrell at the apex.
A couple of players on the edges of the formation, most notably reserve prop Joe Marler, stood inside the All Blacks’ half and blatantly ignored calls from the match officials to retreat.
This ploy by Eddie Jones’ side served as the final act of mind games played by the English in the lead-up to the match, and according to Farrell was necessary to avoid the All Blacks from enjoying a mental advantage early on.
‘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,’ said the England captain at the post-game media conference.
‘We wanted to keep a respectful distance but we didn’t just want to stand in a flat line and let them come at us.’
England’s fast start, thanks to an early Manu Tuilagi try, stunned the All Blacks and gave Farrell’s side the early momentum that paved the way for the 19-7 victory.
‘In all these big games, teams get physical and go at each other from the off and we knew that was going to come our way,’ continued Farrell. ‘We wanted to make sure we were playing that way, too.’
Having begun the mind games earlier in the week, Jones’ tactics to disrupt the All Blacks from the start certainly paid off, with the defending champions visibly rattled from the outset.
‘New Zealand is a god of rugby [translated from Japanese] – so we wanted to take it to them, show we could take the game to them,’ said Jones following his team’s upset win.
‘So, we wanted to put them on the back foot as much as we could. The psychological approach to the game is becoming increasingly important.
‘There’s so little differences between the teams. We had to understand what gives them energy and to try to take that away from them and then for us, we know what gives us energy and what gives us strength, and we were disciplined enough to follow that.’
Jones’s mind games look set to continue in the lead-up to next week’s final, where England will attempt to pick up their second World Cup title against either Wales or South Africa.
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