England forward Ben Kay has promised his side will bounce back from the “embarrassing” defeat by South Africa which left their World Cup hopes in tatters.
Brian Ashton’s men were humbled on Friday evening as the Springboks rattled up 36 points without reply to brush the reigning world champions aside.
England face Samoa on Saturday knowing their tournament will be over if they do not win, and second row Kay insists no-one within the dressing room is under any illusion as to the task at hand.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek show: “Everyone within the squad is bitterly disappointed with how it went and embarrassed by the scoreline.
“But we are trying to put ourselves back together and make sure the negativity we get from within the camp and from outside the camp doesn’t affect our performance against Samoa.
“If we let the negativity get to us, we are going to have beaten ourselves before we turn up against Samoa, and Samoa will be sat there rubbing their hands thinking this is the best opportunity they have ever had to beat England.
“We know the fans are hurting, but I can guarantee that no-one is hurting more than the players.
“We wanted to go out there and put down a marker and show what this England squad can do, and we felt we didn’t do that.
“We are all professional players and that’s our job, and when you have such a monumental disaster at work, everyone feels it.”
Kay revealed that several players were close to tears in the dressing room after the South Africa game, in which England were 10-0 down within minutes and never really threatened to overturn the deficit.
Kay said: “The only positive perhaps we can take from the game was that there was no lack of endeavour from the players.
“It wasn’t the fact that they weren’t trying, it was the fact that all that effort went to waste and we made some mistakes that gifted South Africa 20 points.
“Against a team like South Africa, you cannot afford to do that.
“After the game, it was like a bit of a morgue in the changing room. Fortunately, guys like John Wells and Graham Rowntree were around picking guys up who were close to tears.
“It has been a hard couple of days, but the guys are pulling themselves together now and making sure as we start training, we are in the right frame of mind to take on what will be a tough task against Samoa.
“The confidence is there: we know we have got the talent to do it and we know we have got players who are bright enough to put into action our plans.
“Although we have not been confident in our performances, we know we have trained well and we have just got to put that on to the playing field.”
Sir Clive Woodward, the man who guided England to their triumph in Australia four years ago, admitted the Samoa game now represents a cup final.
He said: “Upsets are happening and this on Saturday is a 50-50 game based on what Samoa did to South Africa for the first 60 minutes.
“The big thing is to concentrate on your team and just get some proven people out there that know how to win these big one-off games.
“This is a complete cup final, there is no Sunday after Saturday night if it doesn’t go well.
“We have to get some absolute real passion into our play to beat Samoa.
“And make no bones about it, deep down, Samoa didn’t think they could beat South Africa, but deep down, Samoa think they can beat England.
“This is just a colossal game for the team next week. The thought of England not being in the quarter-finals in Marseille is just unthinkable.”