As we do after a major tournament, we look at the state of affairs in each of the competing nations. Next up, we have England.
As we do after a major tournament, we look at the state of affairs in each of the competing nations. Next up, we have the nearly men from England.
You're only as good as your last game is a notion that has been dug up over how this English team's campaign has panned out. Harsh? Maybe.
Had they won at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, there is little doubt that the English press would have been falling in love with Stuart Lancaster's troops, possibly tagging them as serious challengers for RWC glory on home soil in 2015. They lost and so the boot was, as it is so often, put in to a few players.
There was talk surrounding this squad that a defeat such as this was needed for it to develop into a World Cup-winning XV. Tough losses builds a player's character, especially coming so far away from the major tournament, and in this early stage of their progression one agrees with it not being all negative.
Even Wales prop Adam Jones has jumped to the defence of England's under-fire props, Joe Marler and Dan Cole, who are still young in front-row years. Given a few more seasons at the coal face – and the return to fitness of Alex Corbisiero – and England will boast a strong crop of hardened scrummagers.
Their locks have arguably been the strongest in the competition in terms of consistency as a pair so that is taken care of moving forward. However, the absence of number eight Ben Morgan for most of the championship was a drawback. England desperately needed carriers at the Millennium Stadium and unfortunately James Haskell, Tom Wood and Chris Robshaw didn't offer enough. It's somewhat coincidental England scored just one try – a fortunate one that ricocheted to Manu Tuilagi off a stray boot – during the four games Morgan was not around and that led to calls for Billy Vunipola to get a run.
Most of the lead-up to the Six Nations had surrounded England's victory over New Zealand late last year and while yes it was an impressive effort, the world champions' players were at the end of a long and bruising year that included Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship. Take nothing away from that win though as it was one of real class, but it can be said that more lessons can be absorbed from the defeat to this Welsh side than December's All Black scalp.
It is worth remembering that most of England's class of 2003 went through last day Grand Slam pain so these tough and eye-opening times do build a player.
Build players they will do in Argentina this June as while their British and Irish Lions head to Australia, Lancaster and the English public will look over the likes of the Vunipolas, Billy Twelvetrees and hopefully Christian Wade, Freddie Burns, Elliot Daly and Matt Kvesic in the next step towards World Cup 2015.