England shouldn't be intimidated by Haka…it's just 15 men dancing!

JAMES HASKELL: Don’t worry about the Haka… it’s just 15 blokes dancing! England need to SMASH the All Blacks

  • England must focus on themselves rather than worry about New Zealand threat
  • Eddie Jones’ side must ‘beat up’ New Zealand if they’re to have chance of victory
  • England have a better lineout and scrum – success in those areas could seal win

It made me laugh on Monday when I recalled All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick being asked about the time he referred to Courtney Lawes as ‘Michael Lawes’.

It was five years ago but I remember how much it irritated us. I thought: ‘Cheers, mate, I’ve spent all week talking about you lot, I know the name of everyone in your team.’

After that match – which we lost – I walked past Retallick and said: ‘Learn our f****** names next time you p****.’

James Haskell has urged England not to worry about the Haka or hype around New Zealand

Haskell says England have better lineout than New Zealand and must use it to their advantage

Haskell also believes England are superior in the scrum and have the quality to cause a shock

All hell would have broken loose if the boot was on the other foot. If I’d come out and talked about ‘Colin Retallick’ then the Kiwis would have been trotting out the ‘arrogant English’ line. It turns out, of course, that Retallick is a top man and an even better player.

At the time, it struck me as a bit of Kiwi arrogance, but after speaking to people I realised that it’s because they just focus on what they do. They look at opposition threats but they don’t care about anyone else.

That’s what England should be doing this week. Don’t make the mistake of spending all week talking about the All Blacks. Don’t be watching footage of them all week, hyping them up and putting them on a pedestal.

New Zealand’s athleticism and natural skills make them arguably rugby union’s greatest side

They’re obviously a special team but I truly believe England can beat them if they get their heads right. People talk as if New Zealand play a magical form of rugby that no one understands.

They have natural skills and, having lived and played out there, I learned that it’s because their first instinct is to pick up a rugby ball. 

In England, everyone wants to be a footballer, reality TV star or an Instagram model. In New Zealand, every kid’s sole objective is to be an All Black. You’ll go to the supermarket and Doris buying her milk will know if you’ve missed a tackle or not.

You don’t want to be an All Black who loses. Apparently, the only shirt on Aaron Smith’s wall is the one from when he lost to England. Or so my sources tell me. They remember those games. That loss made them 10 times more dangerous.

A lot of their tries come from perfect hands down the line. You’ve got props who aren’t as big as their UK counterparts but their hands are better because they’ve been encouraged to play. 

Brad Shields came to England and he was flicking offloads everywhere in the Premiership – which often went to no one. That doesn’t matter in Super 15 but in England, every possession counts and the threat of relegation is real.

New Zealand’s tries often come from superior hand skills down the line – England must be wary

They also have joined-up thinking between clubs and country, which helps. 

There’s no relegation so teams can adopt a game plan and stick to it without looking over their shoulder. The weather also means they don’t have to stick it up the jumper because they’re playing in mudbaths for half the season. But England shouldn’t be scared.

In my 77-cap career we only beat the All Blacks once but sport is unpredictable. They are still human. They are still vulnerable. 

Don’t worry about the Haka. It’s 15 blokes dancing! It was like a red rag to a bull with me. All I wanted to do was go out and fight those people, so much so that I played a recording of it before Premiership matches. Unless you’ve got a heart the size of a pea, it should motivate you.

I believe New Zealand are beatable and I believe England can do it but it will be incredibly physical. You have to beat them up. 

People think that because they do the dance, they are the strongest, but it’s their skill that hurts you. You don’t want to get in a man test with South Africa – they’re the most physical team out there – but if you get a chance to smash the All Blacks then you should take it.

When we beat them at Twickenham, I remember Tom Wood flying at everything, making every breakdown a s*** fight. My dad completely embarrassed me after that game because I introduced him to Dan Carter and dad said: ‘I suppose you guys are on suicide watch.’

Haskell tasted victory against New Zealand just once during his 77-cap career for England

It was our moment in the sun and he went off on one! I had to take him to one side. I think he just got a bit overwhelmed meeting a rugby legend.

England need Kyle Sinckler running at the line, tipping off the ball to big runners. They need Tom Curry and Sam Underhill stopping ball-carriers at the gain line. And they need Maro Itoje getting over the ball, making New Zealand work for four or five seconds at every breakdown because if you don’t slow them down, you’re in trouble.

Run with real physicality, cut out errors and execute your style of play. Don’t overthink it or you will get caught out.

Defence – and turnovers – will win England this game. I think we have a better lineout and a better scrum. Defensively we can be more aggressive than them. If they get all those things right England can take their place in the World Cup final next week.

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