St Helens captain Paul Wellens believes there is a bright future for the England team despite their failure to reach the final of the 2014 Four Nations Series.
England's 16-14 defeat by New Zealand, followed by Australia's 44-18 triumph over Samoa, in the last round of matches eliminated Steve McNamara's team from the tournament.
The near-misses down under followed England's agonising World Cup semi-final defeat by the Kiwis 12 months ago but Wellens, who has been part of McNamara's coaching staff for the last two years, insists the good times are not far away.
"It's an exciting future, given the average age of the squad," Wellens said. "There are some good, young players like Dan Sarginson, who showed what he is capable of in this tournament, and Joe Burgess who unfortunately didn't get a run but I'm sure will develop into a great player for his country as well.
"The signs are there. Although it was a disappointing end to the tour this time around, I certainly think there is a better future ahead.
"As a team, we've really put a stamp on world rugby. We've showed we are more than competitive and, moving forward, it promises to be a really exciting three-match series against New Zealand next year. The last two games against the Kiwis have been extremely close and I expect it to be very similar next year."
Wellens, who won the last of his 31 international caps for Great Britain and England in the 2008 World Cup, says he has been blown away by the professionalism of the current set-up.
"I was five years out of the England set-up and the change in that time has been remarkable," he added. "It was quite clear to me that there's been a lot of hard work done behind scenes to put a stamp on this England team, to bring these people together .
"Quite often people talk about the two-team mentality where players come from their respective clubs and really buy into what we are trying to achieve with England and this has shown with how they get on together in the England camp.
"The attitudes are fantastic, it's clear to see they enjoy their time with each other and they're making some huge strides."
The 34-year-old Wellens, who went straight from St Helens' Grand-Final triumph into the Four Nations Series, will report back for pre-season training with his club later this month ahead of what is expected to be his final season as a player.
He is tipped to join Keiron Cunningham's coaching staff at Langtree Park and is also set to remain part of the England set-up if, as seems likely, McNamara remains in charge for the visit of the Kiwis next autumn.
"It's been an unbelievable experience for me personally," he said. "I suppose I'm quite unique in that obviously I'm still playing but I've made no secret of the fact that I would like to get into coaching when I hang up my boots and this experience has been beyond my wildest dreams.
"Not many coaches get the opportunity so early in their career to become involved with some of the best players in the world and I consider myself very fortunate.
"I'm sure it will stand me in good stead for the future."