George Ford insists England have finally buried the memory of their dismal World Cup performance four years ago after claiming a quarter-final place in Japan.
Eddie Jones’ title contenders became the first team to secure passage into the knockout phase after overcoming Argentina 39-10 at Tokyo Stadium, in the process completing a third successive bonus-point victory.
With a game to spare – Saturday’s Pool C climax against France – England have already surpassed their showing in 2015 when they became the first host nation to exit the tournament at the group stage.
“It’s a bit of a different feeling,” said Ford, who was present when defeats to Wales and Australia ushered in one of Twickenham’s darkest hours.
“It’s hard to believe that four years ago we were out of the World Cup at this stage, but we wanted to learn from that.
“We’ve moved on now and are in a position where we want to be four wins from four games.”
Jones and his coaching lieutenants scouted Wales’ pool victory over Australia a week ago knowing England would be paired against one of the heavyweights in the last eight.
The line-up will be determined next weekend but Ford, who was superb against Argentina as he enjoys an extended run at fly-half, refuses to look beyond France.
“No we can’t think about our quarter-final opponents, we can’t fall into that trap one bit,” the Leicester playmaker said.
“We’ve got to take each game as it comes and that’s what we’ve done so far. Three games down, we just go for the next one now which is France.
“France are a very dangerous team so we just have to prepare for the best French team next week. It’s going to be a challenging game.
“You’ve seen at this World Cup so far that the French flair when they get going – their offloading game – makes them very dangerous.”
A clearer picture over the fitness of Billy Vunipola will emerge in the next 24 hours as the Saracens number eight continues to be medically assessed.
Vunipola hobbled off at half-time against Argentina with his left ankle heavily strapped but the initial prognosis is that the sprain is not too severe.
A doubt also hangs over the fitness of loosehead prop Joe Marler, who appeared to be clutching his hamstring as he departed the Tokyo Stadium pitch in the second half.
England have reached the quarter-finals without being truly tested in Japan, their emphatic victories over Tonga and the USA followed by sweeping aside 14-man Argentina, who had Tomas Lavanini sent off for a dangerous tackle on Owen Farrell.
“We can only play who they put in front of us. They put two tier two teams and one tier one team and the referee decided they should have 14 men,” Jones said.
“All we can do is beat them. Obviously it will get tougher but that’s what the competition is about.
“Every day we look to get better and are motivated by the fact we want to get better. It’s a constant and dynamic process.
“It’s never ending and we’ve got to be relentless about chasing areas we can get better in and we will do that.”