Coach Eddie Jones has urged England to “make the script” in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final against champions New Zealand in Yokohama.
England, bidding to reach a first final since 2007, face a side who have won their last 18 World Cup matches.
And they have played New Zealand three times at World Cups but have never won.
“To beat New Zealand you can’t sit and be a spectator at the show. You have to be on the stage, making the script,” he told BBC Sport.
- England v New Zealand – the key battles
- ‘England will win if stars reach peak’
England’s only previous meeting with New Zealand during Jones’ time in charge was a 16-15 defeat in the Twickenham rain in November.
England were 15-0 up until Damian McKenzie’s try just before half-time began the All Blacks’ assault on their lead.
During the Six Nations earlier this year there were more squandered leads with England failing to win from seven points up after 50 minutes against Wales and drawing with Scotland having led 31-0.
Jones admitted that psychologically his team “have some hand grenades in the back” after the latter result and brought in psychologist Corinne Reid to work with the team.
Reid oversaw squad “honesty sessions”, in which England players were encouraged to feed back on how their team-mates acted on and off the field.
Jones believes his team has unified in the wake of those results, Reid’s work and the experience of going out at the pool stage of the last World Cup four years ago.
“Saturday will definitely come down to the mind. The team have worked a lot harder off the pitch to form a tighter unit which helps them get through situations on the field,” he added.
“I definitely know there is more togetherness.
- What’s it like to face the haka?
- England recall Ford to face New Zealand
- How to win a World Cup semi-final – Dawson column
“Sport is one of those things that sometimes you can’t teach; you have to learn from experience.
“I’m pleased for this group of players that had to endure 2015, which was a tough time for them. They have been exceptional in the way that they have attacked this World Cup.
“And Saturday is a great opportunity for us to attack the New Zealanders.”
New Zealand, who have won 33 of their 41 matches against England and are aiming for an unprecedented third successive World Cup, are well used to the pressure according to assistant coach Ian Foster.
“It has always been one of the great challenges of sport how you keep growing the group that is performing well,” he said. “I guess that’s part of the All Blacks story and we feel pressure to keep writing that.
“We know the expectations and pressure upon us every time we play. It’s a matter of getting used to that. We don’t always get it right.”
England: Daly; Watson, Tuilagi, Farrell (capt), May; Ford, Youngs; M Vunipola, George, Sinckler, Itoje, Lawes, Curry, Underhill, B Vunipola.
Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, Marler, Cole, Kruis, Wilson, Heinz, Slade, Joseph.
New Zealand: B Barrett; Reece, Goodhue, Lienert-Brown, Bridge; Mo’unga, Smith; Moody, Taylor, Laulala, Retallick, Whitelock, Barrett, Savea, Read (capt).
Replacements: Coles, Tuungafasi, Ta’avao, Tuipulotu, Cane, Perenara, Williams, J Barrett.
‘England have total self-belief’ – analysis
BBC rugby union correspondent Chris Jones in Yokohama:
“Eddie Jones was brought in by the Rugby Football Union for weekends such as this.
“The players are relaxed. There is an inner-confidence about this England team. I genuinely do think there is total self-belief and that is coming from the top, from Jones.
“There are English rugby legends in waiting but they have got to do what the 2003 lot did. On the flip side you’ve got New Zealand, a captain in Kieran Read who has been there and done it but has not won a World Cup as skipper.
“Both these teams have serious hunger to take themselves into the history books for their respective countries. It feels like a real game for the ages.”
If you are viewing this page on the BBC News app please click here to vote.
- New Zealand have won 15 of their last 16 matches against England, the exception in that run being a 21-38 defeat at Twickenham in 2012.
- This will be the fourth World Cup clash between England and New Zealand, the All Blacks have won each of the previous three (1991, 1995, 1999) including the only knock-out encounter when Jonah Lomu scored four tries in the 1995 semi-final in South Africa.
- New Zealand have won their last 18 World Cup matches, the longest run in the tournament’s history. They last lost a game in the 2007 quarter-finals against France. Lock Sam Whitelock has played in all 18 of those games and holds the individual record for most consecutive wins in World Cup history.
- The All Blacks have averaged the most points (51), tries (7.3), metres (642), clean breaks (22), defenders beaten (39) and offloads (17) of any side at the 2019 World Cup, they are also one of four sides yet to lose a scrum on their own feed (30/30).
- England are one of just four sides yet to receive a card of either colour at this World Cup and the only one of the four semi-finalists.
- Neither England nor New Zealand have conceded a first-half try in this tournament so far, the only sides to manage this. Both have conceded three tries in the second half.
- Maro Itoje has won more turnovers (7) than any other player at this World Cup. Ardie Savea (5) tops New Zealand’s standings but has won the joint most jackal turnovers of any player (5).
- Billy Vunipola is in line to win his 50th cap for England. New Zealand are the one side he has yet to beat in an England shirt, notching up victories against each of the other 11 nations he has faced.
- Jonny May needs one try to equal Jason Robinson on 28 tries for England, the joint fifth most for the country. It will be May’s 51st match – Robinson won 51 caps for England.
Who makes the cut from Saturday’s World Cup semi-finalists?