Fired-up captain Lewis Moody set the tone for England ahead of today’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final showdown with France by declaring: “Never fear”.
The Bath flanker vowed he will not take a backward step at Eden Park and where Moody treads, the England team must follow.
It was his elevation to the captaincy against France two years ago that kick-started the development of the current team, many of whom now rate Moody as the best captain they have played under.
At stake is a place in the semi-finals of the World Cup, which was England’s minimum requirement before the tournament began, against either Wales or Ireland.
Standing opposite them at kick-off will be a France side in an apparent state of disarray but with the potential to be world-beaters.
Moody’s message is that whatever France side turns up at Eden Park, England have the quality to repeat their 2003 and 2007 World Cup victories over Les Bleus.
“Never fear,” said Moody. “Fear to me says you’re worried about a tackle or you’re concerned you might get injured.
“They’re physical, hard games playing the French. At this level you expect it to be an intense encounter. You have to be prepared for that but you’re also prepared to deliver that intensity as well.
“You are aware what a French side is always capable of, you have that in the back of your mind – but we know the quality of rugby we are capable of playing.
“That focus on ourselves has been very important this week because sometimes you can get carried away at World Cups by pressure situations.
“There’s a lot of pressure put on you. Sometimes you just have to keep it simple.
“You play it with a hunger and a desire that’s unmatched and you then counter that with the discipline when it’s needed. We’re just excited now to get out on the pitch and put in a performance we know we’re capable of.”
Discipline has been England’s Achilles heel and Moody recognises the need to set the right example.
Moody, nicknamed ‘Mad Dog’, became the first England player to be sent off at Twickenham for fighting with Samoa wing Alesana Tuilagi, his then Leicester team-mate.
A nine-week ban followed and Moody began to visit a sports psychologist in an attempt to control what he euphemistically described yesterday as “enthusiasm”.
“Being captain you take on more responsibility so you always have to make sure it’s in check. You also have to make sure you have the right enthusiasm and energy.
“I do like being in the thick of it and so do most of the forwards. But you have to show the right discipline at the right time.”
Thompson ready for titanic tussle: Page 23.