London - England fullback Mike Brown has slammed the lacklustre efforts of Scotland and Italy that helped deny his side the Six Nations crown.
Brown's team romped to a 55-35 victory over France at Twickenham in the final match of a dramatic closing round of the tournament on Saturday, but even that impressive display wasn't enough to dethrone Ireland as champions.
For a fourth successive year, England finished runners-up, on this occasion falling short by less than a converted try.
But the real damage to England's chances had been done earlier in the day in Rome, where Wales walloped the Italians 61-20, and Edinburgh, where Ireland thrashed Scotland 40-10.
It was the Irish who set the mammoth target of winning by 26 points that England pursued so valiantly.
France's hopes of winning the title were remote at best but that did not stop them exploding into life at Twickenham, earning the respect of Brown whose view of Italy and Scotland was less complimentary.
"Massive credit to the French for the way they fronted up for this game and for the way they played - compared to a few other countries," Brown said.
"Fair play to France - they played a game. I don't need to saying anything else. Everyone knows it.
"It was fast paced, end to end. We played good rugby, they played good rugby. France turned up and made a game of it.
"They could have easily folded, so it was great to see that from them from a spectator point of view."
Brown has been present for each of the four Six Nations near misses under head coach Stuart Lancaster and while frustrated to have fallen short once again, he insists England enter the World Cup on home soil later this year in a position of strength with their increasingly effective attack a source of pride.
"I'm gutted. It's tough to take at the moment obviously, but we have massive belief in the squad," Brown said.
"We're in great shape for the World Cup. Not many teams put that amount of points on a French side that hasn't conceded more than two tries previously in the tournament.
"We showed how dangerous we can be and hopefully we can take that into future games."