Jonny May has laid bare the realities of battling to appease the fickle mistress that is professional rugby.
The England wing admitted he lives with a healthy dose of fear every day in his career – the threat of being caught cold exactly on the point of expecting to deliver.
But the 33-year-old insisted England can fall right back down straight way without another top-drawer performance in Sunday’s Pool D clash with Japan.
Champions again in wider opinions after beating the Pumas, May has warned England not to let that good work go to waste, and risk ending up looking like chumps against Japan.
“Rugby is a cruel game and can catch you at any point,” said May.
“You have to be on it the whole time and do everything you possibly can, and even when you do all that then rugby can sometimes punish you anyway.
“I live with that bit of fear. I think the boys do as well but some boys are more reward-driven and they will want to get the win to feel the reward and get the fans behind them.
“I am probably more threat-driven. I am worried about things that can go wrong.
“Either way rugby has to keep you on your toes the whole time and Japan are a dangerous team, they move and pass the ball more than anyone else in the world so like I said we are going to have to be on it. We are going to have to be sharp.
“It was only one result against Argentina, and we went from zeroes to heroes in a week and we don’t want to slide back down to a zero.
“We know where we stand with that. We are not too great. We’re not too bad. We just know we need to get better. And we want to keep working hard and improving.”
England arrived at the World Cup off the back of six defeats in nine matches under new boss Borthwick.
The 30-22 loss to Fiji at Twickenham on August 26 closed a miserable run of three defeats in four World Cup warm-up Tests, and proved their first-ever reverse against the Pacific Islanders.
England dominated Argentina up front in Marseille last weekend though, even coping manfully with Tom Curry’s third-minute red card. Now May has called on the Red Rose side not to let that momentum slip through their fingers.
“I dread to think how it would have been in camp if we had lost that game,” he said.
“It has been a tough, tough four to six weeks. For all the hard work we have put in, to have things thrown at us, it has been testament to the team to stay tight and keep focusing on.
“It is very hard to get distracted by outside noise and opinions. For belief to stay intact and to focus in and then to produce a performance is testament to everybody, not just the coaches and the players but the whole backroom staff and everybody here.”