at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
London– England scrum-half Danny Care believes the side's runners-up finish in the Six Nations has prepared them well for their upcoming tour of New Zealand and a serious tilt at the World Cup on home soil next year.
Stuart Lancaster's men thrashed Italy 52-11 in Rome on Saturday but still finished second on points difference after eventual champions Ireland edged out France 22-20 in Paris.
But there were plenty of encouraging signs for a youthful Six Nation side whose next international assignment is a three-Test series away to world champions New Zealand in June.
“We don't want to be second best,” said Care, writing on his Sportlobster website blog.
“We want to be world number one, so it will be brilliant to go to New Zealand and test ourselves.
“We can win the World Cup. With the way we are trying to play the game and the amount by which we are improving every week, it is building up nicely.
“This is where we want to reach our peak. We want to reach a new level in August next year.
“The team is playing well and players are returning from injury, but we will know more after the summer test series against the All Blacks.
“The result of the tour will show us where we are in comparison with the world's best.
“Come the 2015 World Cup, if the Twickenham crowd are as supportive as they were for the Six Nations, it will certainly act as a big advantage.”
Last year, England came from 14 points down against the All Blacks to lead heading into the final quarter at Twickenham only to lose 30-22.
However, Care added: “We are very excited for the three-match series against the All Blacks.
“They live and breathe rugby in New Zealand and they are currently the best team in the world, so it will be interesting to see how we get on against them.
“New Zealand obviously have a huge amount of experience and some of the greatest players to have ever played rugby. Our caps total is lower than New Zealand's, but we are a young and exciting team.
“Our squad is working incredibly hard and we are learning every week. Experience counts for a lot in the sport, but we have learnt more with every game played. From the loss in France (a 26-24
defeat in Paris in the tournament opener that cost England a Six Nations Grand Slam) to the win against Italy, we continue to develop.”
Saturday's results meant England finished runners-up for the third successive Six Nations but Care, a try-scorer in wins against Ireland and Wales, was heartened by the team's progress.
“We came so close again, which is frustrating, but I think the tournament was a huge success for the whole England team.
“The way we bounced back from the France defeat to go on and win the Triple Crown and notch up more than 50 points against Italy was incredibly pleasing.
“We can be extremely proud of ourselves. It puts us in a good position to move forward.” – Sapa-AFP