England's World Cup final performance was encouraging but they were flattered by the score against Australia, says former head coach Tony Smith.
England reached their first final for 22 years, but suffered a narrow 6-0 defeat as Australia retained the title.
Smith, who coached England and Great Britain, said the side have made progress, but that the Kangaroos are producing better players in key areas.
"England put in a real strong and passionate display," said Smith.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live's Sportsweek, he added: "England tried very, very hard. They made a real dig of it and represented the country very well.
"They showed a good account of themselves and the progress that has been made in the national team - it was very encouraging.
"At the same time, while they were very good, the Australians at the moment are a lot better. The score flattered England to some degree."
Former Huddersfield, Leeds and Warrington boss Smith says while England are producing forwards as good as their Australian counterparts, the Kangaroos' half-backs and hookers are a level above.
"There are some key players Australia have in some key positions that are world class," added the Australian. "They're good decision-makers and that's the difference.
"The foot soldiers and forwards England have are comparable to Australian forwards, but some of the brains trust of the team is just that much better at this stage.
"Until we start producing world-class, smart players, we are going to come a close second. That's up to our sport to start developing those key positions."