The list of grand slam hopefuls who have flown too close to the sun and fallen to earth is long and distinguished but England's supporters are running short of reasons to be pessimistic.
Three wins out of three, only three tries conceded, a points difference of plus 36 and an impending home game against Italy is about as good as the ever-competitive Six Nations can offer. The final fixture in Cardiff, with Lions tour places at stake, has a delicious tingle to it already.
Just as telling as the statistical positives is England's growing habit of winning seriously heavy-duty Test matches without playing to their full potential. In Louis Picamoles, Thierry Dusautoir and the wonderful Wesley Fofana France had top individuals who performed somewhere close to their best. Yet as a team they rarely looked like knocking out opponents who are becoming impossible to outlast in the fourth quarter of games.
Mental strength? Fitness? Organisation? Desire? England are now displaying such qualities consistently, even on brass-monkey days like Saturday when fluidity proves elusive.
The big question now – not the worst problem to have – is whether rising anticipation of a first grand slam since 2003 will choke the minds of a still-developing team or bring out their ruthless killer instinct. Tom Wood, up there with the captain Chris Robshaw and Manu Tuilagi as his country's most influential performer, already has a clear sense of what lies in store. "I guess you do have to entertain the fact there will be huge expectation," admitted the Northampton back-row. "We're going to have to be ready for the extra desire which comes with trying to rob the English of a potential party. If we get ahead of ourselves, then we'll fall flat on our face."
That is precisely what happened two years ago when England were thumped by Ireland in Dublin and unceremoniously stripped of their champions' dignity. Wood, however, is adamant the current team has a steelier mindset. "I look around the huddle before a game and I think: 'I'm glad he's on our side.'" He also paid rich tribute to his captain Robshaw, man of the match for the second game in a row. "He is not somebody who gives Churchillian speeches on a Monday morning but he leads from the front on match days and in training. The players see the effort that goes in and how he's always trying to better himself."
Robshaw's dogged work-rate is certainly proving contagious, with France unable to maintain the headway they enjoyed before and after Fofana's remarkable surge out of his own half past five attempted English tackles. By hauling off the destructive Thomas Domingo and replacing François Trinh-Duc with the out-of-sorts Frédéric Michalak, a tormented Philippe Saint-André did his side few favours and sealed France's worst start to a season for 31 years. A fourth successive defeat in Ireland would make it their bleakest since 1957.
England did, admittedly, benefit from the refereeing of South Africa's Craig Joubert who, after his sub-par performance in the 2011 World Cup final, will never be in danger of being borne shoulder-high through the boulevards of Paris. France were deeply unimpressed again here, correctly arguing England's match-clinching 55th-minute try by Tuilagi should not have been allowed as Mako Vunipola was in an offside position when the ball cannoned into him off Wood's boot at the preceding ruck.
Worse, to many ears, was the South African's refusal to speak even a syllable of French. The multilingual Saint-André simmered with frustration but was big enough to concede his team had fallen away badly in the final 20 minutes and that England are a team on the up. "They still have two games to go but they are confident and well-disciplined. Their discipline was much better than ours."
In terms of improving a winning team his opposite number Stuart Lancaster does still have one or two areas for calm reflection. The experiment of playing Courtney Lawes on the blindside flank was not a conspicuous success, with Dusautoir and his confrères frequently making life awkward at the breakdown. The scrum endured an ordinary day, too, although Dan Cole's work around the field should not be overlooked.
Out on the wings, furthermore, Chris Ashton's vain search for form and defensive solidity continues; Italy might offer a chance to experiment, with Lancaster confirming that switching Tuilagi to the left wing is an option. David Strettle is theoretically the next candidate in line but Gloucester's elusive Jonny May is up and running again and Wasps' Christian Wade also has rare attacking gifts. At some stage Lancaster will need frequent fliers, always assuming they can tackle as well.
A deputy may also yet be needed for Owen Farrell if the fly-half's thigh strain does not respond swiftly to treatment this week. The initial diagnosis was not overly gloomy but Freddie Burns's likely return for Gloucester at Bath this Friday is timely. In the meantime it might be worth someone having a quiet word in young Farrell's ear about not allowing his competitive qualities to spill over into boorishness. Stroppy fly-halves are fine but there will come a day when shoving opponents needlessly out of the way and overdoing the verbals causes referees to lose patience. There was nothing clever, similarly, about Ashton's decision to throw the ball at Benjamin Fall in the final moments, even if he did miss.
Such minor irritations will be swiftly forgotten, of course, if England reel off a couple more victories. Could Italy cause an upset? Based on previous results in London, it is about as likely as Silvio Berlusconi being elected Pope.
After that all roads would lead to the Millennium Stadium, with the title potentially already bagged on points difference. Wales will first need to beat Scotland at Murrayfield and then pull off a stunning ambush. As France can testify, Lancaster's England are not a team prone to fading in the final furlongs.
England Goode (Saracens); Ashton (Saracens), Barritt (Saracens), Tuilagi (Leicester), Brown (Harlequins); Farrell (Saracens; Flood, Leicester, 62), B Youngs (Leicester; Care, Harlequins, 59); Marler (Harlequins; M Vunipola, Saracens, 52), Hartley (Northampton; T Youngs, Leicester, 52), Cole (Leicester), Launchbury, Wasps), Parling (Leicester), Lawes (Northampton; Haskell, London Wasps, 52), Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), Wood (Northampton).
Try Tuilagi Pens Farrell 4, Flood 2.
Sin-bin Cole 79.
France: Huget (Toulouse); Clerc (Toulouse), Bastareaud (Toulon; Fritz, Toulouse, 74), Fofana (Clermont), Fall (Racing Métro); Trinh-Duc (Montpellier; Michalak, Toulon, 53), Parra (Clermont; Machenaud, Racing Métro, 67); Domingo (Clermont; Debaty, Clermont, 56), Kayser (Clermont; Szarzewski, Racing Métro, 56), Mas (Perpignan; Ducalcon, Racing Métro, 65), Samson (Castres; Suta, Toulon, 65), Maestri (Toulouse), Nyanga (Toulouse; Claassen, Castres, 69), Dusautoir (Toulouse, capt), Picamoles (Toulouse).
Try Fofana Con Parra Pens Parra, Michalak.
Referee C Joubert (SA). Att 81,719.
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