Olivier Magne believes England are closing in on New Zealand as the best team in world rugby and credited Stuart Lancaster with laying some of the foundations for the success enjoyed by Eddie Jones.
Since their early exit from the Rugby World Cup on home soil in 2015, England have won every match they have played, Jones transforming them into the dominant force in the northern hemisphere.
They head into the Six Nations as strong favourites due to that unbeaten run but Magne, who won 89 caps for France during his career, believes the All Blacks are still the top team in world rugby.
"England are behind the All Blacks," he told Omnisport. "There is a team who's dominating internationally, of course it's the All Blacks and then it's England.
"Since the last World Cup, England changed mentally. [Stuart] Lancaster had put many young players in the team because he worked with them when he was coaching the under-20 team.
"And he created a team spirit, with discipline and rigour in the game as well as the behaviour, and now it gives Eddie Jones a quality squad.
"Now he's improving the team even more, with even more accuracy in the game. So now England are behind the All Blacks, but not far behind."
Magne's assessment of France ahead of their trip to Twickenham on Saturday was less complimentary.
France have not beaten England at the venue in west London since 2007 and, after a disappointing Six Nations last year, are ranked eighth in the world.
Guy Noves has received backing from Magne, though, the 43-year-old calling for the coach to be given time to revive their fortunes.
He added: "Guy Noves is like the other national coaches, he has to deal with what is given to him.
"And Guy Noves, with all his good will, all his experience, he gets players who need to play together, to know each other, to play a different style than what we've known for the last four years. And maybe he has players who are not as strong as players from other countries.
"So this France is behind, not on the national team, but on all their rugby. So France has dropped behind, and it will take time to come back because we'll have to wait to get players properly trained."