Martin Johnson is convinced England are heading in the right direction with players and coaches learning from a challenging year.
England open a two-Test series against Argentina at Old Trafford on Saturday shorn of their Lions contingent but confident of building on a promising end to the RBS 6 Nations.
Johnson believes they have endured difficult times on and off the pitch but points to the emergence of players such as Delon Armitage and Tom Croft as evidence of progress.
"The squad has had an up-and-down year and are better for it. That's part of the process," he said.
"It's hollow when you've lost games to say you've learnt something but it's true.
"Delon has gone from trying to get into the Saxons team to being a candidate for the Lions tour and on Saturday will start his 10th Test in one year.
"Riki Flutey played nine internationals for England and is on a Lions tour. Tom Croft is on a Lions tour.
“We're taking steps in the right direct, as a team and as a coaching group. We've got a good autumn series coming up but the first thing is Argentina."
England head to Argentina for the second Test, staged in Salta seven days later, and Johnson expects to trim his squad for the trip.
"We'll assess the situation after Saturday. There are some difficult calls when guys have two or three-day injuries," he said.
"We'll probably take 29 or 30 guys. Even if they're not playing it's good to have some guys around the camp so they can understand what's going on.
"Delon played nine Tests this season yet wasn't in the initial 64 selected by England last summer. Guys will find their way sometimes."