George Ford insisted England were still adjusting to life without Owen Farrell as they forged a new identity under Jamie George.
Farrell ruled himself out of the Guinness Six Nations for mental wellbeing reasons and having agreed to join Racing 92 next season, will then be ineligible for international selection.
For over a decade, Test centurion Farrell has been the dominant figure in English rugby, as well as serving as the national side’s talisman, goalkicker, playmaker-in-chief and captain.
“It is different without him. He has been here for so long,” Ford said.
“He has been such an integral part – he has been our captain, he has been a massive leader for us and he stamps his authority on our team.
“So him not being here, of course it’s different, but there is always a time when things change.
“For us, for me and the other leaders, it’s about not trying to replicate what it was like with him here, but be a bit more authentic. Jamie has done that brilliantly.”
Farrell’s absence – combined with Marcus Smith’s calf injury – provides the opportunity for Ford to cement his latest incarnation as ringmaster.
The 30-year-old Sale Shark has 92 caps, 65 of them starts and regularly formed a playmaking axis alongside Farrell, yet under each of Stuart Lancaster, Eddie Jones and Steve Borthwick, he has made way for his long-term friend for critical games.
Most recently, he was demoted after last autumn’s World Cup group match against Argentina despite drop-kicking 14-man England to victory as part of a fly-half masterclass.
While being dropped still hurts, he has learned to roll with the punches in the belief his time will come again.
“But what these experiences have done – because it has obviously happened a few times – is allow you to deal with those moments a bit better and stay a little bit neutral about it.
“When I was younger, when you are starting and playing every weekend and then you get dropped, you are rock bottom and it is a rollercoaster ride.
“Whereas now, you still go through the emotions – angry, gutted and all them – but it is about how quickly you can get back to accepting whatever the new role is.
“I always back myself to go out there and keep getting better in case I do get another opportunity. It’s about belief and a consistency.
“Since making my debut for England, the one constant and consistent thing is the debate around who plays number 10 for England. I’m not sure why.
“You become used to the exterior noise. Everyone’s got their opinion on who should play and the way England should play.
“I make all the choices I do to be the best player I can be and do the best job for England. If some people agree – or don’t – on who should be playing for England, for me that’s massively irrelevant.”