England manager Martin Johnson insists his side are making progress despite a 19-6 loss to New Zealand at Twickenham.
"I'm proud of the guys but ultimately it's an opportunity lost to have a crack at the All Blacks," said Johnson.
"We could have been in the game with 10 minutes to go. We had chances at the end. The breakdown was probably the biggest difference.
"People watching maybe think we've done nothing or gone backwards, but I think as a group we've come a long way."
England ended the autumn Test series with a record of one win in three games and just one try scored in the process.
Johnson's squad has been decimated by injuries and at no point in the autumn series did he had a chance to pick his first-choice team, but he insisted the games against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand had been a worthwhile exercise.
"Although maybe it's not particularly pretty there's a great deal of substance - this is a group of people who trust each other now and we go forward into the Six Nations with a lot to build on," said Johnson.
The harshest criticism this week has been directed at assistant coaches John Wells, Brian Smith and Mike Ford, but Johnson confirmed they will remain in place for the Six Nations.
"I'm happy with the coaching team. Considering what they've been through, they've done a brilliant job," he said.
"Absolutely this is the team I want for the Six Nations."
Flanker Lewis Moody said England could take heart from their defeat but admitted there is still much work to be done.
He also gave his backing to Johnson, whose coaching regime has come in for criticism recently, particularly in the aftermath of their unconvincing win over Argentina.
"I'm never happy losing but we threw everything at them. I'm disappointed to lose but proud of the guys," he said.
"Martin's the heart and soul of the team, he leads by example and it rubs off on us.
"He gave us a good talk before the game which did us good - for the first 20 minutes we threw everything at them," said Moody.
Carter (left) kicked 15 of New Zealand's points
"But I'm gutted we couldn't get over the try line."
New Zealand fly-half Dan Carter ended the day with four penalties and a conversion, but missed several more straightforward efforts.
"We're happy to get the win but parts of our game definitely need to improve," said Carter.
"It's never easy so we'll take that and work on the bits that need working on during the week.
"Defensively we're very sound, we pride ourselves on it, it's definitely something for the boys to be proud of but attacking, we need to work on holding on to the ball, building phases and being composed."
Discussing his own performance, Carter admitted: "I missed a couple of easy ones - I wasn't getting my timing right.
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"I'm reasonably happy with the long-range ones but there's some work to do during the week."
New Zealand coach Graham Henry hailed the performance as the All Blacks' best of the series, following victories over Australia, Wales and Italy.
"That was our best game on tour - we played some quality rugby and I'm delighted with what they've done," said Henry.
"We thought England would be right up for it and it proved that way. I was very impressed with the way they played.
"They were very physical and Martin will be pleased with what they produced."
Next weekend the All Blacks take on France, and Carter admitted it was the game which would define their season.
"France will probably be our biggest challenge, they're really hitting form so it'll make or break our season," he said.
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