Yet England, off color so far this year, dazzled at Twickenham to not only retain their Six Nations title but equal the world record of 18 consecutive Test victories for a Tier One side, set by New Zealand last year.
Their 61-21 thumping of a disappointing Scotland also extended their own record of consecutive Six Nations victories to 11.
There were more records of note, too. A hat-trick from Jonathan Joseph and 26 points from the boot of Owen Farrell helped the hosts to their highest score, and equaled their biggest winning margin, against Scotland as they retained the Calcutta Cup.
England coach Eddie Jones said his team were “ruthless” and performed “like the number one side in the world.”
A step closer to sporting greatness?
This was a sensational performance from a side whose claim to greatness has been questioned after unconvincing wins in their opening three matches of this tournament.
Whether England are yet the equal of New Zealand on the pitch — double World Champions and the world’s top ranked team — is still open to question. Many would answer with a firm no.
Jones himself admitted there was still a gap between the No.1 side in the world and his second-ranked England.
“We’re not beating our chest saying we’re the No.1 team in the world, but we aspire to be the No.1 team in the world,” said the Australian, who has yet to experience defeat in charge of the red rose.
This result, however, would have made the All Blacks take note.
Another equally resounding victory against Ireland, on March 18, in the concluding match of the tournament and England will stand alone in the history books with 19 consecutive wins.
A win in Dublin against an Ireland team which ended New Zealand’s record run of invincibility last October and England would also secure their first back-to-back Grand Slams since 1992.
Even New Zealand would then acknowledge them as worthy adversaries, though both sides are not scheduled to play each other until 2018.
‘We’re vulnerable, we’ve won’
In quickly turning the focus on to the tournament’s final weekend, Jones said his players would achieve greatness were they to collect another win.
The Dublin clash was supposed to be a title-deciding contest, but Ireland’s defeat by Wales on Friday ensured England to simply beat Scotland to successfully defend their title.
“How many times in your life do you get to be great?” asked the former Japan and Australia head coach.
“That’s the opportunity they’ve got and it’s exciting. They’re in the dressing room now talking about it.
“Ireland, psychologically, are in a strong position. They’re beaten, they’re out of the tournament and they love spoiling parties and the party they most like to spoil is the England party. That’s an enormous amount of psychological advantage.”
England burst out of the blocks
This is a very good England side. Their quest for greatness ongoing.
Jones’ men attacked with verve, overpowered an up-and-coming Scotland side and secured their place in history, alongside the All Blacks, with a swaggering seven-try display.
Joseph and Farrell were the standout performers.
Farrell, an injury doubt until match day, pulled the strings in midfield, while Joseph was the poacher supreme — securing his hat-trick before he was substituted on the hour.
“We executed some lovely plays,” admitted Jones.
“Some of the space created by Jonathan Joseph today was absolutely outstanding and it was the work of George Ford and Owen Farrell on the inside. This is a great message from us.”
Replacements Anthony Watson, Billy Vunipola and Danny Care (2) also crossed the whitewash as England cut loose at will against a timid defense.
Injuries, poor defending – Scotland struggle
Scotland had high hopes coming into this match. They had won two of their three matches, scoring seven tries in the process, and were chasing a first Triple Crown since 1990.
But they were a shadow of the side which had lit up this tournament.
Their hooker Fraser Brown was sin binned in the second minutes, while star player Stuart Hogg suffered a head injury early on and his replacement Mark Bennett lasted just four minutes after suffering an injury.
The visitors did manage three tries – a Huw Jones brace and a Gordon Reid touchdown — but the damage was done in the opening 20 minutes when England were already 20-0 ahead.
It was perhaps always too much to expect Scotland to burst England’s balloon.
None of the players on the pitch were born when the Scots last won at Twickenham in 1983. Indeed, they have only won on this ground four times in their 108 years and have not won the Calcutta Cup since 2008.
“We’ll take this one on the chin,” said Cotter, who will stand down as coach after Scotland’s match with Italy on the final weekend.