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YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — Even facing up to the pre-match haka, England stole a march on defending champion New Zealand.
Respect for customary All Blacks practice? Not in this Rugby World Cup semifinal.
Reserve prop Joe Marler wasn’t the only England player standing on New Zealand’s side of halfway when the All Blacks performed their famous challenge on Saturday, but he barely budged when a match official gestured to him about his breach of convention.
After shocking the two-time defending champions with a try to center Manu Tuilagi in the second minute, England didn’t retreat one bit. And four years after being unceremoniously dumped out in the group stage of the World Cup it was hosting, England reached its first final in 12 years with a 19-7 upset over New Zealand.
The All Blacks hadn’t lost a World Cup game since 2007, had never lost to England at a World Cup, and went into the semifinal on a six-game winning streak in head-to-heads and having won 15 of the last 16. All those streaks are over.
Much will be made of England’s V-formation that straddled both sides of the halfway during the haka. New Zealand captain Kieran Read said it wasn’t a factor because it wasn’t part of the game. It was, though, a clear statement that England wasn’t going to give the All Blacks any chance to get on the front foot.
“We wanted to not just stand there and not let them come at us,” England captain Owen Farrell said. “We wanted to keep a respectful dista
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