Dylan Hartley believes England's chances of becoming the number one team has taken a boost following the success of British and Irish Lions during their recently concluded New Zealand tour.
The back to back world champions were put to test in a gruelling three match Test series against Warren Gatland's men and the series finished in a 1-1 draw with the third and final Test ending in a dramatic 15-15 draw in Auckland.
England are not scheduled to take on New Zealand before 2018 but the Northampton Saints hooker believes the prospect of them beating All Blacks has taken a shot in the arm considering the experience gained by the number of players from the red rose team during the Lions tour.
"The Lions did a fantastic job and they showed that New Zealand are the best, they're number one in the world and they're there for a reason but, with the series being a draw, it showed that they are beatable," said Hartley, who led England to a two-nil series win in Argentina in the summer.
"For us as the number-two team, chasing, wanting to the best, to be number one, it just showed us there is an in there. They can be beaten.
"We learned a lot as a team - we had our camp recently and we learned a lot reviewing those games.
"But while we reviewed those games and looked at areas where we could improve our game, all our focus was on Argentina, for our next match.
"It was positive to see, I enjoyed the Lions tour just from a spectator's point of view, without any pressure. Just watching our lads playing.
"We had a lot of England players on the Lions tour. For us the biggest win was having that many players on that tour, playing with the other guys, learning about the other nations and ultimately learning about playing New Zealand.
"The England team will benefit massively from that experience."
England Women's side will be in action later tonight as they lock horns with their New Zealand counterparts in the final of the Women's World Cup 2017.
So far, Black Ferns have been the only team to have retained the title and England have a golden chance to attain the feat after previously winning the title in the 2014 edition.
Hartley, who is among the top contenders to lead England in the 2019 World Cup in Japan lavished praise on the Women's side and is backing them to create history in Belfast.
"They've already won a World Cup, so I'm very jealous," said Hartley, who has long since targeted silverware at the men's World Cup in 2019.
"They've got their own story, and we're of course writing ours. But I'm envious that they get to play a World Cup final.
"I will be watching that because I won't actually be playing. It's not just come about, they've been working very hard for a long time to get to this point.
"They've had a plan in place and they're executing that plan so I'm chuffed to bits for them.
"We're immensely proud of them, and hopefully they can go that one step further.
"And no doubt beating New Zealand down in New Zealand pre-tour, they'll have that confidence.
"New Zealand will have that burning ambition as well, but I'm confident our girls can do it."