Rugby's first major international competition since the World Cup is over, with the June test series that were played out between teams from the top echelon of the game.
While it has only been eight months since New Zealand lifted the William Webb Ellis cup after beating Australia in the World Cup final, much has changed on the international scene.
Back then, the Southern Hemisphere sides dominated the tournament, securing all four semi-final spots and caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst the traditional rugby powers of Europe.
The European sides were savaged by their former players and media for playing uninventive, one-dimensional, and low-skill rugby, in comparison to their Southern Hemisphere counterparts.
While that critique of European rugby is still to some degree accurate, the lessons learned from the World Cup certainly seem to have been taken to heart.
While there were 18 international teams participating in fixtures throughout the month of June, the biggest matches were played in series between New Zealand and Wales, Australia and England, and South Africa and Ireland.
Elsewhere, Argentina hosted France, Japan battled Scotland, the Russians and Canadians toured North America, and Georgia played matches in the Pacific Islands for the first time.
Of all the games played throughout June, it was the test series between England and Australia that got the most attention.
England endured a nightmare of a World Cup last year, getting unceremoniously booted out of their own tournament before the knockout stages, courtesy of a 33-13 thrashing at the hands of Australia.
To their credit, sweeping changes were made to English rugby in the aftermath of their defeat, most notably the hiring of Australian Eddie Jones as their new coach.
Given the lack of success England had achieved touring Australia to this point (3 wins in 17 games since 1909), one solitary victory in the three-match series was seen as a reasonable goal.
Instead, for the first time on Australian soil, England swept the series 3-0, and usurped Australia's position as the No.2 team in the world rankings.
While England are still not the perfect side, they were smarter and more adaptable than they had been in the past. When added to their already strong defence and forward pack, they provided a challenge that Australia showed they had no answer to.
Elsewhere too, the European resurgence was making its presence felt. While South Africa manage to scrape together a 2-1 series victory over Ireland, the Irish made history by winning their first ever game against the Springboks in South Africa.
There was nothing between France and Argentina as they tied their series 1-1, while Georgia went through its tour of the Pacific Islands unbeaten, their only setback being a tie against Samoa.
In fact, the only place where the status quo was upheld, was in the series between Wales and New Zealand.
Many have thought New Zealand to be vulnerable this year, due to the post-World Cup retirement of Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, and the other members of New Zealand rugby's greatest generation.
While the All Blacks may not be as strong a team as last year's counterparts, Wales showed that they were unable to expose any of their deficiencies, suffering three heavy defeats at the hands of the world champions.
At the conclusion of the World Cup last year, there seemed to be an emergence of two distinct tiers in the Rugby world. In the top tier were the Southern Hemisphere nations competing in The Rugby Championship: New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and Argentina. In the second tier resided the European teams competing in the Six Nations.
Eight months later, there are still two tiers in the Rugby world. However, New Zealand now sits alone at the top, with the other nations moving back into the chasing pack.
As former Springbok coach Nick Mallett has pointed out, while there is very little separating No.2 from No.7 in the world, "New Zealand are appreciably better than any other team in the world".
To be sure, New Zealand are not without their vulnerabilities, and England are leading the pack in their effort to overtake the All Blacks before the next World Cup.
The question is – how long can they hang on for?
Tim Newman lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. He is a keen sports fan, particularly following Rugby and American Football.
Tim Newman's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/tim-newman.html