THE BLOG

England Rugby - The Ultimate Test Week

29/09/2015 18:10 BST | Updated 29/09/2016 10:12 BST

It is only Tuesday and yet I'm sure that I'm not alone in saying that my emotions are already rising prior to Saturday's knockout clash between England and Australia. This World Cup has been years in the making, it is all we have spoken about and all that we have focused upon and yet there is a danger that the journey out of Pool A will be cut short in just a few days time. 

We have often said that winning is the only option, after a sticky patch, a poor performance or going into an RBS 6 Nations title deciding fixture however never have the words meant as much as they do right now on 29 September. Saturday's loss was by the far the most agonising and devastating that this squad has experienced together, more than losing any RBS 6 Nations title or QBE International fixture, however the fact is that they have to show colossal resilience and get straight back on the horse. 

Much has already been said about their ability to do this, yesterday Stuart Lancaster openly shared if that he asked his squad to play the match against Australia tomorrow they would because they are 'that frustrated'. The preparations leading towards Saturday's match must be organised carefully by England's management, the emotional energy that is flying around must not become a burden or a detriment. This week is a test of every single player's mental strength for we know that physically they are on point and, by in large, fit. 

Recent history shows us that this squad will bounce back, the reaction against Ireland after that less than beautiful trip to the Stade de France must be replicated again. England must started positively on Saturday and dominate the opening quarter of the match to give them a platform to work from. If Australia gain the ascendancy early then, with everything that is on the line, playing catch up rugby could prove to be too much for this side to take, I hope that I am wrong when I say that. 

With four days to go before the most important match of their lives, a career defining test, now is not the time for criticism and sticking the knife into England's management or individuals. Those in and around England's squad say that they do not read the press and do not care what is being said outside of their camp however in today's society you have to live under a rock to avoid the messages all around. Kicking a man when he is down is never right and the same principle applies to this squad, 'we need your support more than ever' were the words of Stuart Lancaster and he is right. 

Selection will be announced on Thursday morning, Nick Easter has come into camp for the injured Billy Vunipola, he is a man that is vastly experienced and will bring a fresh energy and a wise head to Pennyhill Park at a time when it is needed most. Today, we are still waiting on the fitness of Jonathan Joseph, Courtney Lawes and Ben Youngs and with respect JJ and Ben Youngs are the two critical individuals there for Joe Launchbury has shown his ability to start instead of Courtney. 

Once again selection will be met with a keen interest by all, will England's management decide to let the side against Wales have another shot? Will they mix it up for a final time in midfield, potentially with George Ford and Owen Farrell both on the field? Or will injuries force their hands considerably? The decisions made this week are the largest of this management team's lives and it is going to be a tense run in to this knockout test on Saturday night.