Chris Robshaw insists Saturday’s RBS Six Nations showdown against Italy will present a different type of adversity after the euphoria of dispatching Wales on the opening weekend.
Just eight days after silencing a partisan Millennium Stadium with a stirring 21-16 comeback victory that has been acclaimed as a pivotal moment for Stuart Lancaster’s men, the new title favourites face the workman-like Azzurri.
England know they must meet the expectation of putting the Six Nations’ weakest team to the sword, boosting their points difference in the process, while remaining aware that Italy will not simply wave them through.
Two years ago they edged their Twickenham meeting only 18-11 with six penalties from Toby Flood accounting for their score in a difficult afternoon.
“It’ll be a completely different pressure compared to Wales,” Robshaw said.
“I’m sure most people will be coming to Twickenham expecting us to win comfortably, but we know what we’ve got to do and the aims we set for ourselves.
“You want to perform well and you also want to win. You hope as a team you’ll be more cohesive and it’s that different type of pressure.
“They’re away from home and are the underdogs. There’s not really anything to lose. When you’re the favourites, so to speak, it is a different type of pressure.
“We’ve had tight games against Italy in the past. They almost beat us three years ago and two years ago, and on another day, they could have.
“As a team we’re treating them with the utmost respect, like we treat every other side that we’ve played.
“We had a great win in Cardiff, but it was the start to the campaign for us and that’s all. Now it’s about backing that up.”
Joe Marler believes England have taken a significant step in their development by learning to problem solve on the pitch.
The successful comeback, completed despite the psychological scarring left by their 30-3 hammering in Cardiff in 2013, was founded on the experience of having endured a number of near misses.
Among the most harrowing – and instructive – of these was last season’s 26-24 defeat in France, a match England trailed 16-3 and then led 24-19 before a late lapse of concentration cost them a Grand Slam.
“It definitely feels as if we are a team that is evolving and sorting out problems on the pitch,” Harlequins prop Marler said.
“In Paris last year when we went down early there was still that little bit of panic and unease about how we are going to get back into the game.
“But in Cardiff hardly anything was said and it was a case of what’s the next job and let’s get on with it. The boys are starting to understand the lessons we have learnt. Beating Wales like that has raised confidence levels because it was a great performance. It was a good result but there’s still plenty to work on.
“To go 10-0 down wasn’t in the plan and there are areas to tweak, disciplinary areas which we managed to sort out in the game, but we don’t want to put ourselves in that position again.”
England will hope to generate further momentum in their pursuit of a first Six Nations title under Lancaster by toppling Italy at Twickenham on Saturday.
Facing Marler will be 108-cap veteran Martin Castrogiovanni, the shaggy-haired tighthead who continues to provide the cornerstone of the effective Azzurri pack.
“Martin gets more experienced all the time and is still world class. He’s been at the very top for a number of years now,” Marler said.
“Having moved from Leicester to Toulon, who love their scrums even more than Leicester, he’ll be one hell of a challenge at the weekend. And one I’m looking forward to.
“He’s technically very, very good. He gets very low and is obviously a very big man.
“He’s very strong and I’ve had a couple of tough moments against him in the past and hopefully I can go better against him this time.
“Italy are a very good team who pride themselves on the set piece. They are big, physical and passionate men and just won’t stop.”
Marler will continue at loosehead prop when Lancaster names an unchanged starting XV and bench for the round two fixture this morning.
Italy coach Jacques Brunel has made four changes to the starting XV that lost its opener against Ireland.
Zebre captain Marco Bortolami has recovered from a muscular injury that saw him miss the 26-3 defeat in Rome and will start at prop to earn his 111th cap for Italy.
Club team-mate Mauro Bergamasco, also absent against the Irish, will earn his 101st cap this weekend when he starts as flanker, replacing the injured Alessandro Zanni. Zebre’s Giovambattista Venditti and Sale Sharks prop Alberto De Marchi are promoted from the bench.