Martin Johnson warned England will be in “big trouble” if they fail to improve before New Zealand arrive at Twickenham for the final Investec Challenge clash of the autumn next Saturday.
England beat Argentina 16-9 but there was precious little for the 78,000 crowd to cheer — in fact they booed and jeered —and the only crumb of comfort for a frustrated Johnson was the result.
Usually that is all that matters but Johnson knows the battle-hardened All Blacks will punish England's myriad of mistakes far more ruthlessly than an Argentina side who had been together for only six days.
Matt Banahan eventually scored the decisive try with 10 minutes remaining after England's one quality attack in an otherwise turgid performance devoid of wit, ingenuity and confidence.
Despite all the promises of improvement and captain Steve Borthwick continually praising his squad's effort, England have made little discernable progress over the last three weeks.
Based on their performances against Australia and Argentina, many would argue England have regressed.
Twelve months ago New Zealand romped to a record 32-6 victory at Twickenham and Johnson said: “If the All Blacks are anything they are consistent in their performance and so we need to be a lot, lot better.
“If we make those same mistakes we will be in big trouble. It was a tough game to watch. It was frustrating for all of us. We have to get them back up for next week. I would take those mistakes with a win next week, but I don't think that will happen.”