Sir Clive Woodward picked through the bones of England's dismal Six Nations campaign on Sunday. "If you have got any chance of England doing anything at the World Cup you have got to be looking at winning those games in South Africa," he told the BBC.
He then urged Eddie Jones to forget the next Rugby World Cup, focus on the now, re-find that winning momentum and strut after a championship which saw them finish fifth.
Jones has stayed resolute throughout, saying this campaign -- a slump he warned and predicted would happen -- is part of England's journey. They have made off-field strides, he says. But then listen to Woodward: "If the All Blacks lost three games in a row, they wouldn't be going, 'Guys, just calm down, it's fine, we will learn the right lessons'."
The last time New Zealand lost a third Test on the bounce was Aug. 1, 1998. Marcus Smith, the apprentice fly-half, would not be born for another six months. It just does not happen to the world's best team.
It is not all panic according to the man who led England to the 2003 World Cup, beating Jones in the final. Though he says England are "staring down the barrel" and questions why captain Dylan Hartley is repeatedly hauled off after 50 or so minutes, he sees reasons for positivity. "We have the players and I am a big fan of Eddie. I just think they have run out of steam a bit here."
The "steam" is both metaphorical and literal. Maro Itoje is experiencing what Jones has labelled "second-season syndrome" but he looks shattered. Only Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly and James Haskell have come out of this championship with reputations enhanced; you could argue those absent have also reinforced their importance as England struggled without the likes of Billy Vunipola and Ben Youngs.
From a lofty viewpoint, the reality is England are counting the costs of not having central contracts. Ireland's British & Irish Lions contingent looked rejuvenated and full of beans at Twickenham on Saturday. England's looked exhausted and who can blame them with the ridiculously punishing schedule they have combining club with country.
This is not Jones' responsibility to sort -- he can only do what he can with the time he has the players. But he may rest players on their three-Test tour of South Africa, focusing on long-term success for sake of short-term disappointment.
One international coach highlighted to ESPN some possible signs of mental fatigue: kicks to touch weren't as aggressive as they could be, passes were off the mark meaning players had to break stride and then there is their faltering driving lineout. All little things, but potentially signs of tired brains. With rest, those issues will be solved.
So top of Jones' to-do list when he settles back into his office on Monday and starts thrashing out the blueprint for South Africa are, in his own words, sorting out the leadership density in the team, the breakdown, selection and England's discipline.
Jones said the game currently doesn't love England -- look at Jacob Stockdale's try permitted by the two-metre extension to the dead ball area requested by the England coach -- but they need to turn those bounces of the ball back in their favour and re-find that confident aura they had last year.
"Confidence is such a massive thing in sport," Chris Robshaw said. "I wouldn't say we lack confidence but we probably don't have that swagger we had two years ago. We need to find a way to get that back."
Sorting discipline and the breakdown is a good place to start and although he says the latter may not be fixed until the World Cup, it showed improvement against Ireland. The discipline will correct itself, perhaps symptomatic of the fatigue in the squad. Little tweaks, but improvements needed in South Africa.
The leadership density issue is one only clear within the confines of the England team. The roots of this are an underlying flaw in English rugby, perhaps from the way the players are protected in the academy or over-coaching. Jones is the man to unlock the potential here and Danny Care gives an insight into what is going on behind the closed doors.
"There is only so much the coaches can do," Care said. "It is up to the players at the end of the day. We are trying to work on ways to develop our game to help the team. It is taking more control, reacting to events -- us dictating what is happening rather than being dictated to."
They have Farrell, George Ford, Hartley, Haskell, Joe Launchbury, Chris Robshaw, Care and Joe Marler who have all captained their club team but they need the next generation -- the English equivalent of Dan Leavy, Garry Ringrose and Tadhg Furlong -- to come through.
Then comes selection for South Africa. Jones will hope to have Billy Vunipola available, and a fit-again Manu Tuilagi. They were without five back rows for their final Test against Ireland -- Courtney Lawes, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry, Vunipola and Nathan Hughes -- so Jones will hope a couple of them are available. He does have other options up his sleeve, but faces the troublesome juggling act of developing depth alongside securing results.
The attack also needs fine-tuning. That comes with returning personnel but England need to find a way to get the best out of the weapons they have. Daly was searching for the ball against Ireland rather than being naturally included. Jonathan Joseph and Ben Te'o have not exerted the influence expected during this championship. Whether Jones brings in help in this area only he knows, but it needs to improve.
Before the start of the Six Nations Jones said the following: "If you think you are in a good place... that's probably the time to start worrying." Add soothsayer to his reputation and experience. They say you do not become a bad team overnight, but this championship will be a line drawn in the sand. We will now see Jones 2.0.
"We are a team that in the last couple of years hasn't had to handle losing," Care said. "It has all been quite rosy and we have got all the 50-50 decisions and bounces of the ball. That is what happens when you are riding the wave. Now we are on the other side of it. We have full confidence that we will bounce back from this."
Jones and his team know what they have to do to improve fortunes. The rest of the Six Nations sides have taken strides forward, England still have time to do the same but it needs to start in South Africa. Expect to see a backlash from Jones and his players.
"Rugby is like a rollercoaster," Haskell said. "You have those amazing moments. At the moment we are at the bottom of the roller coaster and it is not going according to plan.
"You have to keep your head and understand that this period is all about learning and it is a team that can come out of a period like this, learn, identify, stick together and become stronger."