England skipper Chris Robshaw admits the intense criticism of his decision making during the autumn took an emotional toll.
Robshaw had been viewed as a fine captain until two major calls against Australia and South Africa - both over whether to use a penalty to kick for goal - resulted in his leadership credentials being questioned. New Zealand even mocked his refusal to go for the match-winning try against the Springboks before England's 38-21 victory over the All Blacks.
The experience left its mark on the 26-year-old Harlequins openside, who said: "The previous year we as a team and myself had enjoyed a lot of good press. It was my first time experiencing the other side. It did hit us, you try not to read it, but you do know what's out there and what's being said."
He added: "The day after South Africa I went into camp and my head was a bit down. I went home for the weekend to try and get away. I was a bit down and moping about."
However, and it was the comforting words of his England team-mates that lifted his spirits, and Robshaw said: "That night the boys spoke to me and said, 'Don't worry, we're going to win this weekend and it will be fine'.
"It really made me appreciate the character of the guys we have in the England squad at the moment. You always appreciate your team-mates, but it was something pretty special for them to say stuff like that.
Dismantling the world champions ensured England enjoyed a rousing conclusion to an otherwise disappointing autumn and Robshaw added: "Beating New Zealand like that was definitely satisfying for me, it's always nice to finish on something special."
On the strength of that performance they have been installed as second favourites to win the Six Nations behind France, and Robshaw believes they must maintain the high standards they set last month.
"New Zealand is the benchmark of where we want to be as a team. It's where we strive to be," he said. "We believed we could beat them. But the win against New Zealand has gone, now it's about the Six Nations.
"We're a relatively young squad and are starting to get that bit more experience. We've played the majority of the best teams in the world now and can take experience and confidence from every game, win or lose."