OITA, 17 Oct - Maro Itoje knows it will be do or die when England look to maintain their dominance over Australia in Oita on Saturday.
Addressing the enormity of the match from the team hotel in Beppu on Wednesday, the erudite forward (above, in action against Argentina) said the quarter-final showdown with the Wallabies would be the biggest game of his career.
"It's knockout rugby, there's no tomorrow here. It's do or die. There is no 'we'll get it right next week'. It's about performing.
"It makes it more exciting. It feels huge. This is a scenario I haven't been in before, which is partly why it is so exciting for me.
"The game you are in always feels like the biggest, most important game you have played in. You don't think about tomorrow or what you did three years ago.
"What is important is what is in front of you and what you have to deal with. Come Saturday, it will be the biggest."
Itoje has been tagged as special since he first appeared at the Saracens Academy, where they measured his wingspan and found it was greater than any they had previously seen. England also coveted him in his teenage years, and he has risen to each challenge.
The Londoner has rewarded those who had faith in him, becoming a multi-titled winner with Saracens, the best forward of his generation in England, and a British and Irish Lions hero.
His name was sung by travelling fans as the Lions squared the 2017 series with New Zealand in Wellington, and those voices came from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
Now, Itoje has a crucial role to play as England, who have won their past six matches with Australia, attempt to move into the semi-finals.
And the 24-year-old believes advice from his coaches has helped eradicate weaknesses in his game.
"Emotionally I've never found it difficult to get up for a game," he said. "Where I've made big improvements under (head coach) Eddie Jones and (forwards coach) Steve Borthwick is being able to control myself a lot more. Being more in control of my actions, what I do and how I behave to positively influence the team.
"I have played in a lot of knockout games over the last five or six years. I'm quite comfortable with knockout rugby. It's a little different but the challenge will be good for us."
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