Will Greenwood has warned England they cannot afford any more "ifs, buts and coulds" if they are to stand a chance of regaining the World Cup.
Martin Johnson's men were wasteful in the extreme in Saturday's warm-up defeat in Wales and have only one more outing to put things right before flying out to New Zealand for their most important matches for four years. The last 12 months have seen England demonstrate a cutting edge that had been missing since Greenwood played in their 2003 World Cup triumph.
But they are in danger of slipping back into old habits and Greenwood, speaking at Twickenham to promote the second Help for Heroes benefit match, said: "I spent my life trying not to talk about ifs, buts and coulds. But with this England team, I've found myself talking about ifs, buts and coulds, and that's the problem. They've got to find a way to turn those chances into tries."
Greenwood also questioned the balance of England's midfield, claiming they could pay the price in New Zealand if they persevere solely with "big lumps", such as captain Mike Tindall, Shontayne Hape and new cap Manu Tuilagi.
"I don't think you can carry three big lumps," said the 38-year-old. "The balance isn't quite right. However, we're not on Mars here. We're round the corner from nailing it."
Fellow World Cup winner Michael Lynagh, who helped Australia to victory in 1991, agreed the balance of England's midfield was wrong and called for one of their two fly-halves, Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood, to play there.
"I quite like the idea of Flood and Wilkinson playing together," he said. "Take your pick, 10 or 12. They both know each other very well, they've got great passing games. They both kick well."
Lynagh acknowledged it was a bit late for such a radical rethink, but added: "It's a bit late in the day to be throwing in Tuilagi."
Greenwood and Lynagh are hoping to convince some of the stars of the World Cup to take part in the upcoming 'Heroes Rugby Challenge' at Twickenham on December 3. The fixture, which was announced on Monday follows the success of the same event three years ago, where 52,000 spectators helped raise £1.46million for Help for Heroes.
This year's match will see a Northern Hemisphere XV tackle a Southern Hemisphere XV, with each team containing professionals and ex-professionals as well as rugby-playing members of the armed forces.