Yokohama - Captain Owen Farrell said England didn't want to take a backwards step against New Zealand's haka after they challenged the war dance ahead of their Rugby World Cup semi-final victory.

As it happened | England v New Zealand

Joe Marler, one of three players who entered All Blacks territory to stare down the haka, ignored calls from officials to retreat as England stood in an unusual inverted V-formation for the pre-match routine.

The feisty approach was followed by a storming start by England, who led after less than two minutes through Manu Tuilagi's try - and ultimately stunned the defending champions 19-7.

"We knew we had to be within a radius behind them and we wanted to not just stand there and let them come at us," Farrell said after the match.

"We wanted to keep a respectful distance and be respectful to that. But we didn't just want to stand in a flat line letting them come to us."

Challenging the haka does not always end well, as Ireland discovered when their fans' chanting drowned it out in the quarter-finals - before New Zealand won 46-14.

In the 2011 final, France advanced towards the All Blacks in a V-formation, crossing the halfway line. They lost the game 8-7, and were later fined for their approach.

WATCH | England's 'V' response to the All Blacks' haka