Australia-based England star Gareth Ellis has admitted that the home nation lacks the strength in depth to compete at the highest international level.
The Sydney-based forward was speaking following England's back-to-back losses to New Zealand and Australia in the Four Nations currently being held Down Under.
Steve McNamara's side might be missing a host of regulars including Jamie Peacock, Kevin Sinfield and Danny McGuire as well as young guns Kyle Eastmond and Chris Bridge but the story has been much the same as usual for England fans.
The inexperienced squad have been further depleted with the loss through injury of Adrian Morley and Michael Shenton during the tournament.
There have been flashes of promise against the Kiwis and the Kangaroos, matches England respectively lost 24-10 and 34-14, but Ellis said they would always struggle to compete given the popularity of the game in the southern hemisphere.
"It's obvious to see," admitted Ellis.
"Look at the number of people that play rugby league in Australia and the fact that it's just about the number one sport.
"It's always going to be difficult with the pool of players we've got to pick from. It was a big loss losing Moz (Morley) and JP (Peacock) before the tournament even started.
"They are big, influential players for our team but the lads that were here have really stood up I think in terms of the pressure that was on them. We had a lot of people making their debuts."
The performances of Ellis and South Sydney forward Sam Burgess in the NRL over the last two years have raised the profile of English rugby league in Australia.
Even so, the comprehensive defeats in Wellington and Melbourne echoed England's poor performances in the 2008 World Cup.
"There have been two disappointing games really," said Ellis.
"It's hard to see at this moment in time any positives other than the talent that we've got and the glimpses that we've shown.
"It's just unfortunate that we're still not capable of playing for 80 minutes, although we're doing all the right things to build a game for ourselves.
"It is hard to keep saying that we're improving and that we've got potential. Twelve months ago we were in the Four Nations final but this year it's not to be.
"The important thing is we've got a young group of players and they have got to remain aware over for the next 12 months what it takes to play at the top level.
"Hopefully I'll be back as well and hopefully I'll improve and add a little bit more to the England team.
"We need to improve and the sooner the better because I'm getting to the wrong side of 30."
England have now returned to New Zealand and are vowing to produce a positive finish to their campaign against Papua New Guinea on Saturday.
The Kumuls, who qualified after winning the 2009 Pacific Cup, have looked out of their depth so far but Ellis insists England will treat them with respect.
"We're professional players," he added. "We've got a job to do and we'll do all the right things to prepare for the game and hopefully finish on a high.
"We want to do the right thing by Papua New Guinea by giving them the respect that they deserve. It's Four Nations and not the Tri Nations any more."