England 26 - 13 Samoa: Toby Flood sets sights on Springboks

Toby Flood has challenged England to fire a World Cup warning by rounding off an encouraging autumn campaign with victory over reigning champions South Africa.

England lost their opening Investec international to New Zealand but they followed up a stunning record victory over Australia by grinding out a win against Samoa on Saturday.

Flood believes that downing the Springboks a week after they were beaten 21-17 by Scotland would establish England as a global force to be reckoned with less than a year away from the World Cup.

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"Next week is hugely important for us. We wanted to put a marker down this autumn and it is important for us to do that," Flood said. "We came into this autumn wanting to win three games and we are two-thirds of the way there now. But we need to win this last game.

"We can't sit there saying: 'You know what, three or four weeks ago we played really well against Australia'. It doesn't work like that. It is massive for us to keep building and keep playing.

"The best teams in the world are so good because they consistently perform to a high standard and that is what we have to get to. The World Cup is a long way off but the quality of teams we have played in this series is like a quarter-final to final run, so it is important for us in terms of putting a marker down."

If England can see off the Springboks they will head into the Six Nations in February and March having beaten two of the world's top three nations within a fortnight.

But Flood warned England will have to be on their guard for a South African backlash after their shock defeat at Murrayfield.

"South Africa will be stung. They will be pretty hacked-off that they have lost and they will come here packing a punch."

England's victory over the Samoans was always going to have an anti-climactic feel about it, given the heights reached against the Wallabies.

Martin Johnson's men made a slow start to both halves and they trailed 8-6 after full-back Paul Williams scored Samoa's first ever try at Twickenham.

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Samoa were a much tougher nut to crack than the Wallabies, with London Irish centre Seilala Mapasua leading a heroic defensive performance from the islanders. England's cutting edge was also not as sharp as last week.They had three potential tries chalked off by the officials but eventually worked scores for inside centre Matt Banahan and flanker Tom Croft.

Flood revealed a sense of dejection in the changing room afterwards - but it was the kind of patient performance that will have encouraged Johnson about the development of his team.

"We are frustrated and a bit disappointed with how we played - the fact that we didn't keep our foot on the accelerator for the whole game," said Flood. "It was something of a wake-up call for us. We can't have ups and downs. The best teams in the world are so good because they consistently perform to a high standard and that is what we have to get to.

"Playing South Africa probably changes the mindset slightly. They are world champions for a reason. It makes you a bit more steely. We have to be aware that they will take their opportunities and punish us if we are sloppy."

Flood kicked 16 points and although down about his general performance, the Leicester man is cementing his position as England's leading fly-half. Jonny Wilkinson is currently injured but Flood would have started the autumn Tests anyway, having taken over occupancy of the 10 jersey at the end of the Six Nations.

He believes his move from Newcastle, where he was Wilkinson's understudy, to Welford Road has been key to him forging his own identity.

"I have changed my mindset from when I first came into the squad. It's not necessarily about the run of games I've had for England, it's more about what I have done at Leicester," he said.

Scorers: England: Tries: Banahan, Croft; Pens: Flood (4) Cons: Flood (2). Samoa: Tries: Williams, Otto; Pen: Williams.

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England: Foden, Ashton (Armitage 75), Banahan, Hape (Hodgson 75), Cueto, Flood, Youngs (Care 68), Sheridan, Hartley (Thompson 56), Wilson (Cole 56), Lawes (Attwood 68), Palmer, Haskell (Croft 68), Fourie, Easter.

Samoa: P Williams, Lemi (Otto 60), Pisi (G. Williams 68), Mapusua, A Tuilagi, Lavea, Fotualii, Taulafo, Schwalger (Paulo 48), A Perenise (Johnston 68), Levi (Poluleuligaga 67), Thompson (Tekori 41), Treviranus, Salavea, Stowers (Aiono 66).