The rules governing the haka, and a new nickname for England’s “kamikaze kids”: here are five things we learned from England’s spectacular 19-7 defeat of the All Blacks on Saturday.
V for vendetta
As England formed an inverted V-shape wedge to face the challenge of the New Zealand haka, they fell foul of World Rugby rules about the traditional war-dance.
Technically, the team facing the haka has to be at least 10 metres from the performance – a regulation brought in to stop spectacles like when France marched towards them.
The match officials attempted to usher some of the England players – who were in the All Black half – back behind their line.
England’s Joe Marler was practically on the New Zealand 10-metre line and the replacement prop remonstrated furiously with the touch judge as he left the pitch.
From ‘kamikaze’ to ‘bunnies’
England’s youthful flankers Sam Underhill, 23, and Tom Curry, 21, again won praise for a dominant performance in the loose and a huge shift defensively.
Coach Eddie Jones has christened them the “kamikaze kids” because they put their bodies on the line and “hit everything that moves”, but back-row partner Billy Vunipola revealed he has another nickname for the dynamic duo.
“They are like the Duracell bunnies, they just go all day and that allows me to rest,” said Vunipola who at the grand old age of 26 is the senior of the three back-rowers.
“I just kick back and watch them do their thing,” grinned Vunipola.
All Blacks are human
It was a strange sight to see the All Blacks, who had barely put a foot wrong the whole tournament, making a series of errors under immense pressure from England’s line-speed.
Even two-time World Player of the Year Beauden Barrett felt the heat, overhitting box kicks and failing to impose himself on the game.
A rueful All Black skipper Kieran Read summed it up when he said after the game: “I think we’ll look at the game and there will be so many what-ifs and things we could have done much better.”
“It’s days like this you can’t afford it and it cost us,” added Read, who is retiring from international rugby after the World Cup.
Ford has Farrell’s boot
Much of the talk before the match revolved around the recall to the starting XV of George Ford at fly-half, shunting captain Owen Farrell to inside-centre in a dual playmaker strategy.
In the end, England were indebted to Ford, and not just for his distribution but his ability to step into Farrell’s boots as a goalkicker.
When Farrell started limping after a knock into his back sent him sprawling, Ford stepped up and stroked four crucial penalties for 12 points, England’s margin of victory.
New Zealand had targeted the set-piece as a key battleground ahead of the game, even playing lock Scott Barrett as a flanker to offer themselves more lineout jumpers.
But England’s lock Maro Itoje was immense at lineout time, claiming seven – as many as the three main All Black ball-winners (Sam Whitelock, Barrett and Brodie Retallick) combined.
Man-of-the-match Itoje, who was terrifying in the tackle and jackaled a series of turnovers, also fired a warning to either South Africa or Wales that more was to come in the final.
“I think we’re just building,” said the Saracens man. “Game-by-game, week-by-week we’re building. We’re pushing in the right direction.
“We haven’t done the job yet but we’re one step closer.”