Martin Johnson took up his England role in July 2008
England manager Martin Johnson believes his side have developed into a stronger unit after a difficult season.
They began the year with comprehensive defeats by New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, but finished second in the final Six Nations standings.
"It's hollow when you've lost games to say you've learnt something but it's true," said Johnson.
"The squad has had an up-and-down year and are better for it. That's part of the process."
Despite home Six Nations wins over Italy, France and Scotland, England suffered 23-15 and 14-13 losses on their visits to Wales and Ireland respectively.
A line-up shorn of players selected for the Lions tour of South Africa also came up short against the Barbarians on Saturday, as the invitational side ran out 33-26 winners.
But Johnson is taking pride in the England players who have emerged over the year to fight for places in Ian McGeechan's British and Irish Lions squad.
"Delon Armitage 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," he said.
"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."
A two-Test series against Argentina begins at Old Trafford on Saturday with Johnson hoping for other new names to force their way into his plans.
Although intended as a home series for the the Pumas, the Argentinean Rugby Union requested that the first match be held in Manchester to raise extra revenue before they return to Salta for the second.
"We've got a good autumn series coming up but the first thing is Argentina," stated Johnson.
"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."