Are we as far away from Australia than in 2002 after the mid season thrashing? At that point many Aussies had or were about to give up on the international game. Luckily Wayne Bennett disagreed.
I take your point about the 2002 test, but that was a one-off test with an ill-preapred squad. As recently as the last world cup England suffered a record defaeat to Australia with several weeks preparation.
The 2003 Ashes had losing margins of 4, 3 and 6 points with the first test test playing 80 minutes with 12 players. When was the last time England/GB played 3 test against Australia that were so close ? The answer is that has not happened since the 2003 ashses and the scorelines have consistently been much greater which would suggest at best England are no closer to Australia currently. The last 3 four nations tournaments only one game was lost by less than 20 points that is a big difference to losing 3 consecutive matches each by just 1 converted try.
What appears to have improved is that England are better placed in terms of injury cover.