England coach Stuart Lancaster believes his side are showing encouraging signs ahead of the 2015 World Cup on home soil after an encouraging performance in defeat to New Zealand at Twickenham.
The All Blacks claimed their 13th successive win of 2013 as Julian Savea scored two tries to stall England's comeback after the hosts had stormed into a 22-20 second half lead.
After an inauspicious end to their Six Nations campaign against Wales last spring, Lancaster's side provided definitive evidence of their improvement in back-to-back wins against Australia and Argentina and then in defeat to New Zealand, who go in search of an unbeaten 2013 and a 14th successive win against Ireland next weekend.
"We talk about building a team and when you're piecing together a jigsaw you need to be going in the right direction," Lancaster said. "We've got great people playing in the shirt, great people playing for the shirt, great coaching staff.
"You've got the English public and the Twickenham crowd 100% behind the team and each part of jigsaw. It's about building a team for here and now but also building one for 2015.
"We're definitely a better side [since the start of the autumn] because the level is different," he added. "Test match rugby is a different level and some of the players have worked hard to get to the level that we expect of them.
"The message to the players now is we must not let these standards slip over the next few months before we meet again in January."
Savea and Kieran Read's early tries had sought to lay the foundations for a handsome New Zealand win 11 months on from their shock 38-21 loss at Twickenham, but England had other ideas.
Owen Farrell kicked five penalties and Joe Launchbury scored his second internatonal try in as many tests to put England ahead, but Savea's second following Ma'a Nonu's beautiful offload saw the All Blacks continue their winning run.
Steve Hansen's team travel to Dublin next week with the view of completing the first ever 100% winning season in international rugby history, a feat which leaves Lancaster realistic about his own side's progression.
"We're desperately disappointed having put ourselves in a winning position at 22-20 but we weren't able to close out the game," he added. "We can be very proud. We didn't make a great start but to come back and in with a chance of winning it but to not close it out was disappointing.
"If you go in the England changing room you'll find them desperately disappointed to have lost against a team who have been unbeaten all season. The belief in ourselves and the direction we're going in is positive.
"I think the players have been great role models and they've played with character. We've pushed New Zealand very close."