New Zealand scrum-half Aaron Smith has admitted that his aim was to intimidate England’s captain Owen Farrell in the haka prior to today’s semi-final in Yokohama.
England came away from the clash with the spoils following their dominant 19-7 win. Eddie Jones’ side showed their intent right from the off with a try after 98 seconds. Prior to that, the players showed no fear, lining up in a V shape against the haka.
When asked for his response to their approach, Smith maintained that his reason behind the haka is not to scare anyone, however, as he faced down the unflappable Farrell, he did try to intimidate him.
“I don’t really do it to scare them or anything, we do it for us and to represent our people, represent New Zealand. The All Blacks have been doing it for 110 years. It’s about us, I didn’t really notice.
“I was looking at the guy straight opposite me and that was Owen Farrell, he was giving me a few winks so I was trying to scare him as much as I could.”
The reigning world champions were naturally disappointed following the manner of their defeat. New Zealand’s only points in the match came midway through the second-half when a misjudged lineout throw finished in the arms of Ardie Savea who crashed over the line.
Smith admits that a combination of England’s dominance and their own errors led to the semi-final defeat.
“They were great there tonight. I felt in the first 30 minutes we were bending them and finding half-gaps but we were just missing key cleanouts.
“Their two loosies were all over the ball all night. They were at us at set piece, they were at us in our phase and they kept turning us around in their phase play attack by kicking it a lot. We just weren’t able to get out of our half at critical times.
“Anytime that we were sort of getting any assertiveness or ascendancy we’d get a penalty at the breakdown or we’d give away a silly penalty.
“It’s disappointing not being able to execute. We knew what was coming and we just got beat to the punch a little bit.
“We just couldn’t get anything, eh? We’d get any spilled balls they’d bounce to them. But that’s rugby you know? Last week everything bounced our way, this week nothing did. You’ve got to make your chances and I felt at times, we took our chances and we’d give away a penalty on a line break.”
The All Blacks will now contest the third-place play-off against Wales or South Africa but after months of preparation and weeks of competition in Japan, it is little consolation.
“(It’s been a) big year, a few years prep for this tournament. You just feel like you’ve let everybody down. I’m really gutted for the people in New Zealand, and the guys in the room, the guys leaving.
“It’s just really disappointing. High-performance sport isn’t fair and we fell onto that end of the stick tonight.”