England will enter their decisive showdown with Australia inspired by a call-to-arms from Stuart Lancaster urging them to look inwards in pursuit of rescuing their World Cup from disaster.
Knockout rugby has arrived two games early after the 28-25 loss to Wales left the Red Rose staring at the abyss of a group exit a mere 16 days after the tournament opened amid such high expectation.
No host nation has failed to reach the knockout phase and defeat to Australia could have damaging repercussions for Lancaster, his coaching lieutenants and Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie.
The stakes are impossibly high as England seek to record a third successive victory over an Australia team that won this summer’s Rugby Championship, and Lancaster knows the moment must be seized.
“My final words to the players will be do it for everyone,” head coach Lancaster said.
“To do it for the rugby clubs, the mums and dads and kids who play rugby, for their families, for the former players.
“But ultimately, I’ll tell them to do it for themselves. They are the ones who have put the graft in, they are the ones who have to sit in the changing room before the game.
“We have some brilliant players. They are brilliant players now, but are only going to get better in the future. This is a big moment for them. For all of us.”
It is England’s biggest match since the 2007 World Cup final, their most meaningful encounter at Twickenham for 24 years and a game that may ultimately define Lancaster’s stewardship.
The 8pm kick-off means the 45-year-old will ruminate throughout the long hours of the day, passing the time as best he can, although a return trip to the cinema has been ruled out.
“I have 12 hours to fill from when I wake up at 6 in the morning until we leave at 6 in the night,” he said.
“I’ll walk 95 times around the golf course at the team hotel. I won’t go to the cinema again, that wasn’t a very sensible choice last time because I picked the wrong film.
“It was ‘Everest’ – a story about a man going to the top of the mountain. A big storm comes and he dies!”
A feature of the games against Fiji and Wales in a brutal Pool A has been the noise generated at Twickenham, creating an atmosphere not previously experienced at the home of English rugby.
The volume promises to increase once more during the 80 minutes of looming do-or-die rugby that will either save or condemn the hosts.
“There is a whole country behind the team. It can be felt when the players are carried to the changing room by the noise of 82,000 people,” Lancaster said.
“The message to the players is to make sure you fire some shots because you can’t sit and think what if at the end of the game.
“Games at this level are decided by very small margins, but we don’t want to come off with any regrets at having not had a crack.
“This is a young team and I think people like the fact they play with pride and they have a crack.
“We don’t always get the decision-making right, but you can see they genuinely care about playing for England.
“The boys care massively about this result, I can assure you, and I think there is a lot of goodwill behind the team.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved