Owen Farrell’s sly smirk as New Zealand performed the haka before Saturday’s semi-final will undoubtedly go down as one of the most endearing images of this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Having already lined up in a V formation in response to the ceremonial dance, England’s collective response to the haka was to score in the first few minutes of the game. From there on in, Eddie Jones’ men didn’t look back, defeating the holders.
England certainly took some of the attention away from the usually ferocious Kiwis with their unique antics but they are far from the first team to attempt to come up with an answer to the haka...
Ireland, led by the brilliantly-posturing Willie Anderson, had the audacity to have a go all the way back in 1989. Demonstrating how unafraid this Ireland side were in the face of the Maori war dance, the men in green linked arms and edged forward to stare down the New Zealanders. Anderson himself locked eyes with opposite number Wayne Shelford during the spine-tingling moment.
Unfortunately for the Irish, however, the All Blacks produced a comprehensive 23-6 win at Lansdowne Road.
Anderson would later say: “We won the dance but lost the match.”
Why wait when you can get in there first? An Irish team again here, putting their balls to the wall as Munster produced their own haka courtesy of their own four Kiwis in the face of the touring New Zealand national side.
The All Blacks graciously let Munster proceed with their own warrior ritual, led by Doug Howlett (interestingly the most capped All Black on the field). Munster actually went far closer than the aforementioned Anderson & Co and almost pulled off a victory - narrowly losing out in the last four minutes by 18-16.
If this doesn’t give you chills, we don’t know what will. As close to perfect tribalism as it’s possible to get as the two sides refused to show any intimidation to the other, somehow articulating everything great about the sport without having played a single minute.
Approximately 1500 miles of Pacific Ocean separates the two nations at their closest points but there was less than 10 feet between them when they met at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane at the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia.
Forget that Tonga went on to be defeated by 91 to 7, nor in fact registered a single win in Pool D - being unafraid to take on the challenge of the haka, simultaneously with their own Sipi Tau. Basically, in terms of entertainment, this could be described as the equivalent of what happens when a tornado meets a volcano.
At the 2007 Rugby World Cup, France took a leaf out of Ireland’s display 18 years earlier by coming right up to the line to confront the All Blacks.
Just look at that steely glare from the one-man mountain that is Sebastien Chabal.
Look at it!
Bring back Chabalmania we say! And so would the French, given that their side won the clash 20-18. Until Saturday it was New Zealand’s last World Cup defeat.
Ooooh you could cut the tension with a knife! Haven’t got goosebumps yet? Let Wales take it from here.
In the most audacious ‘Blinking Game’ ever, the two teams came face to face in 2008 and proceeded to have a brilliant Mexican stand-off at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.
NZ-born Warren Gatland educated his Welsh boys in the traditions of their opposition and the importance of their pre-match ritual.
Said former Wales captain Ryan Jones: “Warren questioned whether we knew the history of the haka. We had pretty limited knowledge, although we understood it was a challenge. But Warren asked if anyone knew the significance.
“He also asked us whether we realised the haka was only over when the opposition walked away and that was the All Blacks’ cue to leave. I think it was [flanker and former record-capped forward] Martyn Williams who asked what would happen if nobody turned away.
“There was a sort of shrug of the shoulders. We thought this had never been done before. There was a unanimous call to adopt this policy and that was pretty much it."
And that’s exactly what they did, an impressive battalion of red shirts all in a line, in stark opposition to the gusto and gaul that had been demonstrated in the haka. Simply brilliant.
Again, disregard the result if you were expecting Wales to manage a win. They were defeated 29 - 9.