New look England impress under McNamara
England's performance in demolishing world champions New Zealand was another powerful step in the right direction.
One big win does not necessarily enhance England's chances of toppling Australia in Saturday's final, but it has certainly proved just what this team of players is capable of.
This is the best England side I have seen in a long time, and regardless of the outcome at Elland Road, coach Steve McNamara will already feel justified in the controversial calls he has made.
Maori Rangi Chase dealt effectively with the special treatment he was always likely to receive from his Kiwi mates. McNamara told me the following morning that Chase produced his "most controlled performance for us so far".
His preferred half-back pairing of Chase and man-of-the-match Kevin Sinfield - traditionally a loose forward - must surely be winning over the doubters too.
I'm a massive Sinfield fan and am delighted to see the Rhinos skipper silencing his international critics. His kicking game against the Kiwis was hugely superior to that of Benji Marshall, who found the hands of Sam Tomkins more than he found clear grass.
Wigan full-back Tomkins, rewarded for staying loyal to league in the face of union overtures with a big-money new deal with the Warriors, recovered from an early howler to produce a sparkling display.
The KC Stadium buzzed every time the youngster had ball in hand, although you do wonder how different this game may have been had Keiran Foran's score from Tomkins's error not been disallowed for offside.
New Zealand born Rangi Chase has not looked out of place since pulling on an England jersey. Photo: Getty
Disliked by a lot of rival Super League fans for his perceived niggly style and petulance, this was another mature international display in the face of some ugly hits from the Kiwis. McNamara labelled him a "tough little bugger" for taking a succession of high shots with not so much as a grimace.
The understanding and cutting edge offered by the back three of Tomkins, Tom Briscoe and Ryan Hall is hugely encouraging too. All three weighed in with scores, Hall's another sensational touchline effort. He is fast becoming one of the best finishers in the game.
But what pleased me most about this England performance was its maturity and composure. "Efficient, controlled and effective" was McNamara's synopsis.
It took the best part of half an hour for the home side to touch down through Briscoe, but there was no panic. Sinfield's last-third kicking was far less effective than his positional kicking, but he too kept his head and reaped the rewards after half-time.
It was New Zealand rather than England who lost their cool. From the lofty commentary position at the KC Stadium (I think you can see the Great Wall of China from up there) I had to wait until I watched it back on television later to see the two incidents that so riled those who tweeted me during the game.
Jeremy Smith and Isaac Luke have both been put on report. Had the "report" option not been available to the match referee Matt Cecchin then both of them could have been heading for an early shower, with Luke especially fortunate that a horrible leg twist on Chase in the tackle was not spotted.
Dejected Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney admitted afterwards "England were very disciplined, we were the opposite". McNamara also called the Luke incident "very poor".
England's fitness struck me too, especially in the pack. While the Kiwis were blowing and beckoning to the bench for interchanges, the home front row was flying.
Jamie Peacock didn't train all week but produced another inspirational effort, James Graham overcame his injury to do the same. And it is testament to the 80-minute effort of Hull boy Jon Wilkin that England didn't miss Gareth Ellis.
McNamara tells me Ellis was very close to being available to play, and will be back in the reckoning for Elland Road, which would be unfortunate for the impressive Gareth Carvell.
Chase spent a long post-match stint in the New Zealand dressing room.
You could be forgiven for thinking he was either seeking the head of Luke or wanting to gloat. He was simply catching up with his old mates - no hard feelings after 80 minutes of blood and thunder in which the Kiwis did everything they could to wind him up.
One New Zealand journalist riled Marshall in the post-match press conference by asking what the mood was like in the dressing room. "Is that a serious question? What do you think?" he snapped, before replying sarcastically "yeah we're all stoked mate".
To see the man regarded as one of, if not the best stand-off in world rugby, so dejected and angry is perhaps the biggest pat on the back that you can give to England.
McNamara lost his rag a little afterwards too when asked if this success made up for the failings of last year's tour down under.The England coach accused journalists of deeming that unsuccessful tour a failure, while his view is that it was a vital stepping stone towards where they are 12 months down the line.
"Without that experience would we have had this one?" he asked. Without doubt England are becoming more battle-hardened, but we must appreciate that beating New Zealand and Australia down under is a completely different proposition to what the team is starting to achieve on home soil.
McNamara himself was up early on Sunday morning to do a live interview on 5 live Weekend Breakfast before 0730 GMT. Could you imagine Fabio Capello doing that to talk through his side's win over Spain?
McNamara texted me after the interview to say "we are getting some good national media coverage this year, even if it means me getting up this early!". To see our national coach willing to do this to help promote our game is terrific.
And so on to Leeds, and another crack at the Aussies In the final. No Billy Slater this time but Australia remain massive favourites. England have always been capable of the kind of performance that crushed the Kiwis, but they have never been able to back it up a week later. Now is the time.
I spoke to the Aussie coach Tim Sheens at half-time and asked who he would rather face in the final. He said England, but I'm not convinced he meant it.
Beating the world and defending Four Nations champions hasn't won England any silverware, but it has converted a lot of doubters into believers.