Drawing comparisons with a period in his own playing career, Dylan Hartley believes there is plenty for England fans to get excited about ahead of this summer's feast of international action.
While several members of Eddie Jones' setup are readying themselves for an exciting summer in South Africa, England will take on the USA and Canada in two July Tests at Twickenham.
This year's Guinness Six Nations may not have gone to plan for the team, but Hartley believes this summer could open the door for a new wave of talent – in similar fashion to the tour of Argentina in 2017.
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The former Northampton Saints hooker bounced back from Lions disappointment by captaining Jones' men to a clean sweep of wins against the Pumas four years ago, and he is excited by the crop of talent ready to put on a show this time out.
"We're at a similar stage being two years out from France, and I can't wait to see what happens," said the 35-year-old, who was speaking at Swindon RFC to celebrate their work as part of the NatWest RugbyForce programme.
"There were about five or six other senior players with me on that tour, as well as my roommate Tom Curry. At the time no-one really knew who he was, while the likes of Sam Underhill were also up-and-coming.
"Eddie's going to be without players like Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Jamie George, so others are going to want to impress. The likes of Marcus Smith and Ollie Lawrence could get the nod and I am excited to see them get given that chance.
"We had a disappointing Six Nations in 2018 and then the team went on to win a place in the final in Japan a year later. I'm confident that with the talent we've got we can come out firing again and I look forward to seeing that."
Besides the impending return of mouth-watering international action Hartley is buoyed by the sight of fans in rugby stadiums across the UK, considering the gradual easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
As well as fuelling the drive and determination of professional players on the pitch, Hartley reckons the chance to cheer teams on and engage in grassroots activities has served as a major boost to the physical and mental health of people up and down the country.
He said: "It's still baby steps now, but already there's been a big impact of having fans back in stadiums. Fans drive atmosphere, atmosphere drives emotion, and emotion drives performance.
"As a player you want to perform for an audience and showcase your skills, and I'm sure the vast majority have taken a lot out of the roar from supporters at grounds over the last week or two.
"It's great that grassroots sport has started to open up again. We've learnt how valuable physical sport is for all aspects of health, and in terms of rugby seeing that banter and camaraderie return has been priceless."
Hartley - who won 97 Test caps and led England to back-to-back Six Nations titles - saw such traits first-hand at Swindon RFC, where he picked up a hammer and hard hat to help club members make improvements at their home ground.
The Wiltshire-based club have been hard at work over the past month converting a disused loft area into a state-of-the-art physio facility, thanks to a partnership between NatWest and England Rugby.
The NatWest RugbyForce programme is now in its 13th year, and the importance of supporting such grassroots schemes and helping clubs thrive as hubs for whole communities is not lost on Hartley.
He added: "It's been great to mix in with the guys at Swindon - what's going on at this club is a great example of how NatWest RugbyForce supports the selflessness and work ethic employed at clubs up and down the country.
"Rugby clubs are hubs of business, networking, romance - everything and anything! The addition of the physio area adds another outlet to the club and improves the sustainability of a hugely important grassroots setup."
NatWest is an Official Partner of England Rugby. NatWest RugbyForce is a nationwide programme developed in partnership with England Rugby to help rugby clubs get set for tomorrow. @NatWest_Rugby @EnglandRugby
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