Owen Farrell insists England will dwell only briefly on the success of a remarkable season before refocusing on their true goal of usurping New Zealand as the game’s dominant force.
A first Six Nations grand slam since the glory days of 2003 has been bettered with a series whitewash of World Cup finalists Australia, sealed by a rollercoaster 44-40 victory in Sydney on Saturday.
England are now positioned second in the global rankings – they were eighth when Eddie Jones took over in December – and have extended their triumphant run to 10 Tests, four short of the record set under Sir Clive Woodward.
Toppling New Zealand remains the overriding objective, however, and Farrell knows they must continue to develop if they are to challenge the world champions.
“What we’ve done is a step in the right direction, but we have to back it up and keep improving because we’re not where we want to be,” Farrell said.
“It’s been brilliant. We’ll enjoy this because it has never been done before. We’re in a good place but our goal is clearly to be the best, that’s what’s been said since we met up. That’s what we’re working towards. To beat New Zealand we’ll probably have to start joining things up a little bit more. We’ve had games in this series where if one thing’s going well something else might not be. It might then swap around for the next Test.
“There might be times we put little bits together, but there aren’t big patches of that yet so it’s about how we do that.
“We’ll definitely go back and look at the series as a whole and make sure we learn from it. We’re not where we want to be yet although we’ve come here and got a brilliant three results. The only thing we can do is to get better.”
It was Farrell’s goalkicking that ultimately proved the difference at Allianz Stadium after Australia edged the try-count 5-4. The man of the match amassed 24 points through six penalties and three conversions and missed just one of his 10 shots at goal, finishing the series with a 66-point haul and 88 per cent strike rate.
Jones describes his goalkicking as “solar system class” and Farrell revealed that coaching sessions with Jonny Wilkinson at the squad’s Surrey training base have elevated his game to a new level.
“Working with Jonny has impacted on me massively. He’s made me understand a lot better what I do and how I get to where I want to get to. He’s the best ever,” Farrell said. “I can’t see anybody ever being better than him, either. He’s a good person to learn from. He’s someone who knows it all inside out.
“He’s someone who’s thought a lot about it. Not only that, but he’s a brilliant person to learn off. If it doesn’t go in one way he’s got 10 different ways of telling you how to do it. It’s brilliant for the likes of George Ford and myself.”
Farrell refuses to take any plaudits for his success rate from the kicking tee.
“That’s my job. The first Test probably spurred me on a little bit because even though I knocked them over I wasn’t striking them as well as I thought I could,” he said.
“I really got back to it the week after and came good.”
England trailed 18-17 at half-time but produced a strong third quarter to pull ahead, although it was a display that fell well short of the 80-minute masterclass requested by Jones.
Having performed defensive heroics in Melbourne, they were porous in Sydney as a year-long season of wildly fluctuating fortunes finally began to catch up with the tourists.
“It was quite open. The scoreline shows that. We went in at half-time knowing we could have done better,” Farrell said. “We came out second half and fixed a couple of things. It wasn’t all smooth but we definitely got better in the second half.
“The aim was to play what was in front of us. It was to put a complete performance out there, but we didn’t do that and got more towards it in the second half. We know we can get better and the aim is never to go out there and shut up shop or just attack non-stop – but to do what we need to do to win a Test match.”