We asked England's 2003 Grand Slam and World Cup winners for their views on Stuart Lancaster's side… what was the verdict
22:42 GMT, 2 March 2013
16:23 GMT, 3 March 2013
England are two wins away from completing the Grand Slam, but just how good is Stuart Lancaster's side Sportsmail asked the class of 2003, who not only triumphed in the Six Nations, but were also crowned world champions.
The questions we put to them were:
1 How good are this England team
2 Can they replicate your triumphs
3 Which players have impressed you
Scrum-half, 77 England caps, 16 tries. Retired in 2006. Now media pundit
1 They are easily the best since 2003, not necessarily a great set of individuals but, as a unit, they are very impressive. They’re in a similar position to us in 2001 but with less experience.
2 If they continue as they are, they will be in prime position for the World Cup in 2015. Winning the Grand Slam in a fortnight will help as they need to win big games under pressure.
3 I like the second row. They have become the epitome of the engine room. I’m also impressed with how Danny Care is dealing with being second-choice scrum-half.
Mature: Danny Care has taken well to being second choice
Prop, 73 caps, 2 tries. Retired in 2010. Runs clothing brand Raging Bull
1 They’re good now but have potential to be great. I can see quite a few similarities to us, when it comes to individuals and their positions. The only player they’ll never find is a Billy Whizz [Jason Robinson].
2 Can they Yes. Will they With luck they should win the Grand Slam, but Wales will not be easy, and they need to hit a few more speedbumps before the World Cup to toughen them up.
3 Chris Robshaw is top of my list. He’s been outstanding as a player and captain. I’d also like to single out coach Stuart Lancaster. He hasn’t put a foot wrong. Manu Tuilagi’s my other man. Owen Farrell has also impressed.
Wing, 57 caps, 31 tries. Retired in 2011. Chairman of anti-bullying charity
1 They’re developing nicely but aren’t yet the best in the world. With Wales away for a Grand Slam we will find out whether this team can dig deep. The 2003 side suffered setbacks that made them stronger.
2 I don’t see why not. But I’d like to see a few more peaks and troughs so that we peak in 2015 for the World Cup.
3 I like the back row, including James Haskell. Tom Wood reminds me of Richard Hill. Ben Youngs may have more control but Danny Care is like Matt Dawson in how he can put the opposition on the back foot.
No joke: James Haskell has impressed in England's back row
Flanker, 71 caps, 12 tries. Retired in 2008. Now coach at Saracens
1 They are performing well, are led well and seem to know what they want. In 10 years, the game has moved on, but this group seem quicker than us to find the answers.
2 There’s every indication that they can. They’ve already played all the best teams in the world and fared OK to very well against them. Winning the Slam would give them the confidence we got from our 2003 Slam.
3 Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood. They are ferocious in the breakdown and are used as an attacking weapon in defence. Manu Tuilagi is critical to England, too.
Centre, 75 caps, 14 tries. Now player-coach at Gloucester
1 They’ve been playing at a high intensity and their biggest strength is the pressure they apply. But there is still work to be done.
2 They can better us by winning a Grand Slam two years before the World Cup. I’d be disappointed if they don’t. Win, and they can go on to be world champions.
3 Manu Tuilagi is England’s key player and Robshaw’s consistency is outstanding, Joe Launchbury’s a real find and look out for Billy Vunipola.
Main man: Manu Tuilagi has been at the forefront of England's Grand Slam bid
Full-back, 55 caps, 22 tries. Retired in 2011. Works in the City as commodities trader
1 This is a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Not many would get into our team, but what’s more important is the environment Stuart Lancaster has created.
2 Yes, in terms of medals, although I don’t think the calibre of rugby in the Northern Hemisphere is as high as it could be. This England team are doing well but we set the global standards in 2001-02.
3 It’s hard to single out individuals because England’s best weapon has been their teamwork. I do like Dan Cole’s demeanour and the way he goes about his business.
Lock, 62 caps, 2 tries. Retired in 2010. Now a ESPN commentator and media analyst
1 So far, very good, but it’s still early days. They need a lot more time. And how many would get into our team Not as many as some might think. We were much older and had experienced leaders all over the pitch.
2 They can, but don’t hang everything on 2015. Don’t forget the majority of the 2003 team went through the 1999 World Cup and the current team are certainly young enough to go on and win in 2019 instead — or maybe even as well.
3 Obviously Manu Tuilagi and Owen Farrell, but also Dan Cole and Joe Launchbury.
Hands on approach: Joe Launchbury is another who has grown during the Six Nations campaign
Prop, 22 caps, 0 tries. Retired in 2004. Forwards coach at Wasps
1 Judging by the last few results, England are becoming very difficult to beat. But are they better than we were Yes and no. They are a bit younger than us and we had more world-class players. What is similar is that a lot of our team had the disappointment of the 1999 World Cup, just as some of this team were at the 2011 Cup.
2 Without a doubt, if not better than what we achieved, but there are caveats. We must ensure we keep up, if not get ahead, of any improvements by others. We must ensure there is stiff competition for places and we must make Twickenham a fortress.
3 Mako Vunipola because he is such a destructive ball-carrier; Joe Launchbury, because he doesn’t make mistakes. And Manu, of course. He has the X Factor.
Hooker, 73 caps, 4 tries. Retired in 2011. Now living with his new family in Dubai
1 Good and will get better. I’m not sure the best starting XV is playing yet. The scrum creaked a bit against France.
2 Certainly with the Grand Slam. We’ll find out more about whether they can stand the pressure. I want to see them bully sides like we did, mentally and physically.
3 Tom Youngs is our best hooker now, overtaking Dylan Hartley. He’s awesome in the scrum and the loose and if he fine-tunes some of his set-piece he will be world class.
Head and shoulders above the rest: Tom Youngs (centre) has emerged as England's best hooker
Centre, 55 caps, 31 tries. Retired in 2006. Now a media analyst
1 I’m enjoying watching them. They have great mental strength and are improving in stature every game. It’s a great sign they can beat sides as good as France when not playing well, and be annoyed about it.
2 The Grand Slam definitely and with a World Cup at home the options open up.
3 Geoff Parling. He jumps, he pushes, he tackles, he does exactly what it says on the tin. And Owen Farrell. To be a stand-off in a World Cup-winning side you need to be a tough nut and a sponge. He absorbs every lesson Test rugby throws at him.