As the full time whistle blew in Cardiff on Thursday evening the scoreboard read Wales - 23 Fiji - 13 and it confirmed, in black and white, that this weekend it is do or die for England Rugby.
It is the situation that we all feared when the pools were drawn back in December 2012, although none of us ever dared to speak about it for too long. However, now it is clear, 80 minutes of rugby will decide England Rugby's fate in their home world cup and it must be played against world class opposition.
"The over arching message at the start of the week was to get up & get on with it. Obviously it was a hugely disappointing defeat but we can't wallow and feel sorry for ourselves we've got a massive game this week and we have to stand up."
Those were the words of Stuart Lancaster at lunchtime Thursday as he announced his squad for the most important fixture of his tenure and let me assure you right now that they weren't said because he thought that he should say them. Instead they were articulated with honesty in his eyes and said with one hundred percent conviction and belief. He continued;
"It is, it is obviously a huge game. We respect the quality of the opposition that we are playing against but we know obviously that we have beaten them as well, we've beaten them in the last two games and that belief that we have got, not just from that but also from being in this position in the past. It is very similar to the week after we lost to South Africa (in 2012) and we came in for some criticism and played New Zealand the following week, it is a very similar mentality in the group this week."
Stuart is right, in the face of adversity this England side has never come unstuck or backed down. This squad will be much better for the excruciating manner in which they lost last weekend and we, on the outside, have to trust that some tough lessons have finally been learned.
Selection wise Jonathan Joseph comes back into the mix and his fitness is a huge boost. JJ's flair and ball playing ability was missed last weekend and crucially it allows Brad Barrit to move back into the area that he feels most comfortable, the 12 channel. Joe Launchbury starts for the injured Courtney Lawes and I expect him to have a huge impact. In commentary Will Greenwood once described Launchubry as 'an enforcer with a very low error count' and he is right, Launchbury's athletic work around the park will add to England's ball carrying options. Joe has 10kg on Courtney Lawes and as Stuart's points out 'that's an extra 10kg behind the tight-head. I hope the Australia loose-head is ready.' In the back row Ben Morgan needs to go all out for as long as possible and once he has emptied his tank Nick Easter will bring fresh energy to the field, exactly like he has done this week in camp.
This weekend's match will be about much more than just physical attributes, it will be about the mental strength of this England side and fronting into whatever is thrown at them. A positive start is the dream however they must stay composed even in the face of catch up rugby, knowing what is on the line. Chris Robshaw articulated the situation that they find themselves;
"We have an option. We can change things this weekend or we can let it linger. As players we have to front up and change things. There is no point dwelling on it. Yes last weekend was heartbreaking and devastating. We let things get away from us but in sport a week can be a long time and we have got that chance on Saturday to put it right."
Putting things right will take a monumental amount of effort, Australia have been building strongly as we all thought that they might do. Michael Cheika has only been in charge for 11 months however their progression has been marked and the addition of their experienced men due to 'Giteau's Law' has put the cherry on the top. A backline with Folau, Ashley-Cooper, Giteau, Kuridrani & Genia to name but a few is not to be taken lightly at and as for the dynamic duo of Hooper and Pocock the extent of the challenge is clear.
The atmosphere and feeling inside Pennyhill Park is that this side is ready to show exactly what they are made of and turn this situation back around on Saturday evening. The squad, and management, are under no illusions regarding the ramifications of this weekend's fixture however they refused to be pulled into feeling like they are underdogs. England are playing against a side that they haven't lost to since 2012 and they are playing at home on their turf. I will leave the final thought to Stuart Lancaster who hit the nail on the head when he said;
"To win games at this level where the margins are small but consequences are huge, you have to hit a high percentage of accuracy in decision making across the full eighty."
If England do that and deliver a performance akin to the one that we saw for the first 40/50 minutes last Saturday evening then their Rugby World Cup journey will continue and it will do so with them situated firmly back in the driving seat.