Tom Palmer: Clinical performance required to set us up for the big three

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After a tough summer tour of three Tests in South Africa, this England team has learned some valuable lessons about international rugby at the highest level.

When you play against the best teams in the world, any mistakes made are punished ruthlessly, as we found in the first half of the second test in Johannesburg.

While we may have lost the first two Tests, we at least managed to earn a draw in the final match to take a positive from the tour.

We now face Fiji, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand on consecutive Saturdays, starting this afternoon. It is going to be a tough challenge, no question, but one we are relishing.

Because for this team to achieve our goal of being the best in the world, we need to play, and beat, the best the southern hemisphere has to offer.

We are honest with ourselves and know there are aspects of our game which could be better, but we are working very hard and constantly striving to improve.

Knowing we came so close in June is a huge motivating factor for us all as we feel our goal is within our reach.

The build-up to our first match against Fiji started two weeks ago just outside of Burton-upon-Trent.

We were fortunate enough to spend a week at St George’s Park, the new Football Association training centre.

It is a magnificent facility, full of state-of-the-art equipment, and it was a real privilege to train there.

For me personally it was the best place I could have spent the week, as I was suffering from a niggling calf injury which had been troubling me for the previous three weeks.

The rehab gym at St George’s is exceptional, and that, combined with the expertise of Phil Pask, one of our physios, had me back fit by the end of the week and available to train and prepare for this week’s match versus Fiji.

Pasky is the longest serving member of the England team, having started in 1997. In that 15-year period he has probably treated every injury it is possible to suffer in rugby. It’s thanks to him I’m able to play today as two weeks ago I wasn’t at all confident I would be fit in time.

I was really pleased to hear that today’s match against Fiji has sold out. It is always fantastic to play at Twickenham in front of our home fans, even more so when it is a full house and you can’t hear yourself speak on the field.

The Fijians will offer us a tough test and we certainly won’t be underestimating them.

It was only two years ago that they held Wales to a draw at the Millennium Stadium, and five years ago that they beat Wales in the World Cup in probably the game of the tournament.

In our analysis of them we have seen how dangerous they can be in open spaces and broken-field situations. Their team is full of fantastic athletes, with great pace and footwork and the ability to beat a defender in a one-on-one situation. We will need to control the match tactically, play it on our terms, keep them under pressure and then capitalise on any mistakes they make.

A good clinical performance will set us up nicely for the next three matches and will hopefully be the first step towards our goal.

Lucozade Sport is the official sports drink of England Rugby and we are rewarding amateur players with their very own England Call Up this Autumn. Nominate the player from your club whose performances most deserve it and they could win a pair of tickets to watch England at Twickenham. Go to www.lucozade.com/Englandcallup. Follow Tom on Twitter 
@TomPalmer79

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