Skipper Phil Vickery admits England cannot forget about their 36-0 pool stage thrashing by South Africa.
Vickery (left) and Ashton (right) face the media
Vickery, who was suspended, and the injured Jonny Wilkinson missed that defeat, but both are in the team for Saturday's World Cup final rematch.
"We would like to be able to erase the memory, but unfortunately they don't go away," said prop Vickery.
"It still hurts, but Saturday's a World Cup final and whatever has happened doesn't really count for anything."
No team has ever gone on to win the tournament having lost a pool stage match.
I'm enjoying being part of this adventure
But the fortunes of the Cup holders have been transformed since that defeat, and Vickery says there is no easy way to win the ultimate prize.
"There were a lot of disappointed people in the England changing room that night," he said.
"South Africa took their opportunities, but a huge amount has changed for us since then.
"To know what true Test rugby is about you have got to play against South Africa. It is the most physical game you will ever face.
"We haven't come this far to go out on Saturday and think about past experiences.
Jason Robinson bears the scars of the 36-0 loss to South Africa
"This team is here to make its own history, and we won't leave anything in the changing room."
Coach Brian Ashton confirmed that the ignominy of such a crushing defeat had been the turning point for the squad.
"We have played better since the first South Africa game - the squad is a lot closer," he said.
"Every game has been a knockout game for us since then, and we've won every one.
"We had a team meeting on the Saturday morning after that game, and every single player was involved. It was a very open and honest meeting.
"The players have put in so much hard work.
"I think we have been written off since about June. This squad of players has consistently proved people wrong around the world."
England will be hoping that fly-half and leading points scorer Jonny Wilkinson can repeat the heroics that helped them win the tournament in 2003.
And after four years of horrendous injury problems, he admits he has a differerent perspective ahead of the final.
"I've moved on, turned 180 degrees on some issues," he said. "I'm still struggling to enjoy these occasions as they happen but I'm enjoying being part of this adventure.
"The four years have allowed me to step back out of the obsessional 'bubble' I was stuck in and get more control of my emotions - but to be honest, Saturday comes around and it doesn't seem like much has changed at all.
"When you are so desperate to give your best that causes the nerves, but that's what I rely on."