Josh van der Flier on why Ireland stepped forward to face the Haka 2 years ago

Josh van der Flier on why Ireland stepped forward to face the Haka

Mary mother of God, what a moment this was!

Ireland and New Zealand separated by a TV camera crew, 15 metres and an absolute melting pot.

The All Blacks kicked off their Haka and as they finished their first line - their declaration of war - the Irish team stepped forward as one.

The crowd, tingling and heaving with anticipation, were fit to explode.

Most of us, leaning forwards in our seats, expected them to edge forward even more as the Haka continued, with TJ Perenara bellowing to the heavens. This was not Willie Anderson and 1989, however.

Ireland edge towards the Haka and the crowd goes wild

All this before the game even began. Peter O'Mahony roared Amhrán na bhFiann loud and he roared ...

One step was all they took. That was it.

But it was enough.

With Bundee Aki glowering at his countrymen, across the divide, the Irish team, arms entwined, stared the Haka down.

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There have been many responses to the Haka over the years but the ones you truly remember are the ones followed by victories or, at the very least, close calls. On Saturday, November 17th 2018, Ireland won and their pre-match step looked like one giant leap.

Post-match, Josh van der Flier was asked about that Ireland move. He told us:

"It just represented the fact we weren't going to take a backward step the whole game.

"That's what Besty [Rory Best] said to us - we want to go after them, not step away, not accept being bullied by them.

"That was part of it and then, and I suppose it's a pretty special moment as a team all being together and watching something as historic as the Haka. So it's quite cool."

Van der Flier says it was Best, the Ireland captain, who relayed the message to the wider squad - one step forward.

It could well have been the Ulsterman who came up with the concept too, as he has spoken strongly in recent years about how New Zealand bullied Ireland two weeks after their Soldier Field loss.

"I think he's really good," van der Flier said of his captain.

"He understands players very well. He'll put his arm around you, but will also know if you need a good talking to. But mostly he's very softly spoken, but says exactly what needs to be said. He won't over-talk and he knows what's best for the team, and always gives his all for the team.

"When you see the performances he puts out and how much effort he puts in every week, and how he trains and everything, he's someone it's a privilege to follow."