Eight years ago England bounced back from a 36-0 pool stage humiliation by South Africa to stun Australia in the quarter-finals while in 2012 it was a tough November series that had the doubters wondering about the wisdom of appointing Lancaster.
Less than a year into the post, his fledgling England side had beaten Fiji well but lost to Australia and South Africa — for the third time in five months — and faced an All Blacks team on a roll.
Steve Hansen’s side had won 12 and drawn one of their games since winning the World Cup and had just hammered Scotland, Italy and Wales, averaging 42 points a game.
England, however, delivered one of their finest performances in recent years as, in front of a disbelieving Twickenham crowd, they ran the All Blacks ragged in a 38-21 victory, their biggest ever win over them and still their only one in 15 attempts since 2003.
“It’s a huge game and we respect the quality of the team we a are playing but we have beaten them in the last two games,” Lancaster said on Thursday of the Pool A fixture England almost certainly need to win to stay in the tournament.
“It reminds me of after we’d played South Africa back in 2012. We got some criticism there but the following week we came out and beat New Zealand.
“It was a similar scenario then when the All Blacks came into town and that’s the feeling we’ve got here this week.
“The immediate over-riding message (after last week’s Wales defeat) was to ‘get up and get on with it’. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. The boys responded brilliantly to the review and by Monday evening they were ready to play.
“There are a lot of things to play out over the next two weeks.”
One of those could well be Lancaster’s long-term future. His initial contract was extended to the 2020 World Cup a year ago but should he become the first coach to fail to get England out of the pool phase, there is a strong possibility that he might walk away.
Lancaster, who has often spoken about how he is also building towards the 2019 World Cup in Japan, was reluctant to discuss anything beyond Saturday.
“You can’t spend your time thinking about or the future — you just have to nail down what’s needed to win this game,” he said.
“It’s a must-win game, the stakes are huge and there’s no hiding away from where the accountability lies.”
(Editing by Ed Osmond)