Mako Vunipola and Jack Nowell have revealed they doubted whether they would be able to play in the 2019 Rugby World Cup after making their first appearances of the tournament on Saturday.
Both players suffered injuries at the end of last season which put their places in the England squad in doubt, and ultimately caused them to miss the first two pool games.
However, Nowell and Vunipola both came off the bench to help England to a 39-10 victory over Argentina that secured their place in the quarter-finals.
Vunipola, who suffered a recurrence of his hamstring injury in the pre-World Cup warm-up game against Ireland, conceded: “I had a fear that that could be it.
“It was touch and go and the first week was tough. It was more of a mental challenge than anything else. The physios and medical staff had every confidence I would be ready.
“As players you are very impatient and you want to get out there straight away and when you see the boys going so well in training and in games you want to be a part of that. It was about biding my time and just getting ready for whenever I got my chance.
“It was good to be back out there. I felt a bit rusty, almost felt like a deer in the headlights at times, but I’m just happy to get through it. It wasn’t easy at times, but I’m happy.”
Nowell admitted he had the same fears, saying after his try-scoring return against Argentina: “A lot of times I thought I wouldn’t play at the World Cup.