Owen Farrell has called for England to be ruled by cool heads when they attempt to salvage their South Africa tour from ruin in the Afrikaners’ heartland of Bloemfontein.
As well as conceding the series, Eddie Jones’ men face the prospect of plunging from fourth to sixth in the rankings if they are routed in Saturday’s second Test, while a loss of any kind would guarantee they drop below the Springboks.
Victory, however, would propel them into a Cape Town decider having finally ended a slump that currently numbers five consecutive losses and secure a shot at becoming the first England team to win a series on these shores.
“The last thing we should do now is panic. The last thing we should do is worry,” England’s captain said.
“None of us believe we can’t win this Test. What we have got to do is get it right so that we’re in the best place to perform.
“We had a good training session on Wednesday when we felt like we were more in control of what we are doing and we have to carry that into Saturday.
“We thought we got the emotion right in Johannesburg but when the pressure came on and they started getting momentum we probably didn’t cope with it as well as we should have done. We’ve spoken a lot about that.
“To win a series in South Africa would be massive, but we’ve got to equal things up first. We can only do that by concentrating on what we do now and keep building into it.
“No England team has ever won a series here so to do that would be something special, but we’ve got to get Saturday right first.”
Farrell insists England, who need to make improvements in discipline, defence and at the breakdown if they are to succeed at Free State Stadium, have looked to simplify their outlook in response to their sequence of defeats.
“This run makes you look further into it. It makes you look deeper,” the Saracens playmaker said.
“Sometimes it’s trying too hard, sometimes it’s getting things wrong because we’re not clear in our thinking. A lot of it is making things simple and clear so we can really go after it.”
England’s last visit to Bloemfontein 11 years ago ended in a record defeat on South African soil as a side ravaged by injury, illness and unavailability were overwhelmed 58-10 on the day Mike Brown made his international debut.
Brown is still present on the left wing but there is no place for his Harlequins team-mate Chris Robshaw, who has made way for Brad Shields at blindside flanker, while Joe Launchbury returns from a calf injury to partner Maro Itoje in the second row.