England to face up to haka at final

England will face up to the haka before tomorrow night’s rugby league World Cup semi-final.

The English surprised the Kiwis by turning their back on the pre-match challenge in Newcastle on Saturday and instead forming a huddle.

Affronted New Zealand players marched into enemy territory but the snub continued and the English raced out to a 24-8 lead.

After composing themselves and regathering for a 36-24 win, stand-in Kiwis' captain Benji Marshall accused England of “disrespecting” the haka and admitted it had upset members of the team and was perhaps a factor in the slow start.

But England’s Australian-born coach Tony Smith hit back, saying that in some cultures poking your tongue out at others could be seen as insulting and that the Kiwis had pushed things too far by crossing into England’s side of halfway.

So the haka has again been a source of fascination for both Australian and English media this week and England enforcer Adrian Morley revealed yesterday that they would stand and face the challenge at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.

“We didn’t go out to create a storm and we’ve got the utmost respect for the haka, it was just we felt we needed to get in a huddle and reconfirm a few of our points rather stand there wasting time watching the haka,” Morley said.

“It was by no means disrespectful but I don’t think we’ll be doing that again because it did cause a bit of a stir but that wasn’t the intention.

“We’ll face up [tomorrow night] and as I say it was by no means on purpose just to create a kerfuffle, that wasn’t the case.”

New Zealand interchange prop Sam Rapira, a Maori who may lead the haka tomorrow night, sat out the Newcastle game and admitted he was stunned to witness the snub.

“Watching it from the sideline it was a bit of a shock, you’re used to seeing other teams line up and take the challenge so to see that was something different,” Rapira said.

“But that’s what they did, this week the boys are going to come out just as strong and do it just as hard so if they want to face up to us – or if they don’t that’s their choice but the boys are going to do it and get into it.”

Kiwis centre Simon Mannering, who has been switched from the second row to replace the injured Steve Matai, was also surprised by England’s tactic, but said while the issue had made headlines it hadn’t been a big focus in the camp this week.

“Not too much has been talked about it,” Mannering said.

“I didn’t expect them to be doing that last Saturday so I’m not too sure if they’re going to do it again or not.

“We’ll just stick to our guns, we’ve been doing the haka for years on end so it’s not going to change anything.”

Kiwis: Lance Hohaia, Sam Perrett, Simon Mannering, Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei, Benji Marshall, Nathan Fien, Nathan Cayless (c), Thomas Leuluai, Adam Blair, Sika Manu, David Fa’alogo, Jeremy Smith. Interchange: Issac Luke, Greg Eastwood, Bronson Harrison, Sam Rapira. England (TBC): Paul Wellens, Mark Calderwood, Martin Gleeson, Keith Senior, Lee Smith, Leon Pryce, Rob Burrow, Adrian Morley, Mickey Higham, Jamie Peacock (c), Gareth Ellis, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Rob Purdham. Interchange (from): James Graham, Ben Westwood, James Roby, Kevin Sinfield, Jon Wilkin, Gareth Hock

Fairfax Media