IT IS a sign of how much this England team is developing that Kevin Sinfield, the RFL rugby director who captained the national side not long ago, demands they complete a series whitewash tomorrow.
When New Zealand arrive at Elland Road for the third and final Test, head coach Wayne Bennett will send his team out knowing they are more than capable of completing the job.
For all the Kiwis have threatened to cut loose at times during their time in the north of England, with the dare and guile of world-class players like Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Kodi Nikorima, ultimately they have not had enough quality to see off an increasingly resilient home side.
Sinfield has been delighted with the progress of England this autumn yet admitted: “I think in the past as Englishmen, our mentality would be 2-1 is acceptable.
“But now it’s not. It’s got to be 3-0. If we are to be where we want to be in 2021 (World Cup), we have to win games when the pressure isn’t quite on as well as when the pressure is on.”
If they do that, it would certainly send out a clear message to the rest of the world and close the gap on No 1 side Australia in the world rankings.
Key to them doing just that will be a player Sinfield knows well, not only given he is now under his wing at Leeds Rhinos but also having once been international colleagues.
Scrum-half Richie Myler comes in for his first game of the series, benefitting after Sam Tomkins suffered a broken hand in Sunday’s second Test victory at Anfield.
Although Myler won his seventh cap against France last month, five years after his last England appearance when forming a half-back partnership with Sinfield in a win over the Exiles, he has been overlooked for the Kiwi series. Bennett praised his display against the French but preferred Tomkins alongside George Williams for New Zealand and the Wigan pairing has worked.
However, Myler, who cancelled a family holiday to Dubai to be a late replacement for Luke Gale in the 24-man squad, now gets an unexpected chance to flourish.
“It was disappointing because I thought I had a decent game against France,” said the 28-year-old, when asked about that original omission.
“But I also thought two days before that that I’d be on holiday. I only came into the squad at the last minute and, if you look at the team and dynamic of that right side with the Wigan connection (Tomkins, John Bateman and Oliver Gildart), I think that is where he was aiming to go anyway. And they have been phenomenal.
“It is unfortunate for Sam that he’s now injured but I’m chomping at the bit and can’t wait to play. I’m really excited.
“Obviously I’ve had to wait a little longer for the first game but was over the moon when told I was in.”
Further evidence of England’s growing strength is former Warrington Wolves star Myler is Bennett’s fourth choice half-back – arguably fifth – with Gareth Widdop, Luke Gale and now Tomkins all injured yet they are still expected to prosper.
They have lost the dynamic Daryl Clark (rib) and powerful prop George Burgess (banned) from last weekend’s game, too,.
However, in the excellent Warrington utility Stefan Ratchford – unfortunate not to be used this far – and Wigan’s debutant Joe Greenwood they have yet more talent ready to shine.
England, who also beat the Kiwis in Denver in June, will look to emulate the 1993 Great Britain side tomorrow.
Back then, Mal Reilly’s star-studded team, including Jason Robinson, Garry Schofield, Shaun Edwards and Jonathan Davies, went unbeaten in five Tests during that calendar year, defeating New Zealand over a three-Test series at Wembley, Central Park and Headingley having also twice beaten France.
But Myler insisted: “New Zealand have shown up the last two games and I think they will be desperate not to lose all three games.
“They will be putting everything into it to get the win so we know we’re going to have to be on our mettle to get the win again.
“There’s been nothing between the sides so far in the series; they’re two quality teams.”
Myler will play with Wigan star Williams for the first time but he says they have quickly gelled.
“This side’s full of quality and the team knows exactly what it’s about and what it’s doing so it is an easy system to fit into,” added the ex-Catalans player.
“It’s a very tight-knit group. It’s been really good and everyone’s been playing probably the best rugby they’ve seen them play.”
Which is the overall aim from hereon in right up to 2021.