England still in the hunt but must eradicate suicidal penalties
LONDON: Victory over Australia at Twickenham next Saturday would give England a good chance of progressing to the quarter-finals, possibly even as top of Pool A, but they will have to change history if they are to go on and win the World Cup.
Saturday's 28-25 defeat by Wales has left England in danger of becoming the first host nation in 24 years not to make the quarter-finals.
And it seems something of a leap of faith to imagine they could turn the situation around to such an extent that they could become the first team to lose a match and win the tournament.
Several have lost pool matches and reached the final, including England twice in 1991 and 2007, and coach Stuart Lancaster was already plotting his team's escape route while the crowd was still trying to digest Saturday's unforgettable game.
"Bonus points will come into it," he said. "France lost two pool games in 2011 and got to the final. Lots of things can happen yet and we still have plenty to play for.
"Wales have to play Fiji and Australia. I've already said to the boys that everything now has to go into beating Australia."
England have won three of their last four matches against Australia at Twickenham since 2010, but will need to improve their work at the breakdown to defeat the Wallabies again next week.
Commonly lumped together as "indiscipline", England's problems on Saturday were the result of poor decision-making and technique as they gave away 12 penalties, most in their own half, and were punished again and again by the boot of Dan Biggar.
Many offences took place in situations of no great danger, with players routinely trying to fight for the ball with their hands on the ground or failing to roll away from the tackle, basic laws of the game that have been clamped down on strongly by referees throughout the tournament.
"It was so frustrating the number of penalties we gave away to allow them to stay in the game," said Lancaster, whose team led by 10 points early in the second half.
"We've talked a lot about getting the tackler away, we put a massive emphasis on that, it's been a hot penalty in this World Cup.
"They are all in or around the breakdown. We back our defence we have to make better decisions."
Captain Chris Robshaw was similarly annoyed. "Wales put us under pressure and made us make silly choices," he said.
The silliest of all was probably Robshaw's own, to kick for the corner two minutes from time instead of attempting a shot at goal to tie the scores.
It earned a simple banner headline in the Sunday Times of "Botch Job."