Courtney Lawes says losing at home to Scotland means fear is the key to England bouncing back strongly against Italy.
In the 30 years of this one-sided fixture England have won all 27 meetings with an average scoreline of 40-12.
On paper an Anglo-Italian rivalry does not exist. For the Azzurri, who have not won a Six Nations match anywhere since 2015, it has long been an exercise in futility.
Yet Calcutta Cup matches at Twickenham had become the same for Scotland until they ended 38 years without a win last weekend.
And off the back of that, England are akin to a high wire walker who has wobbled and is suddenly conscious of how far there is to fall.
Lawes said: “We have to be on our toes, have a bit of fear about us and not take anything for granted. It’s not going to be hard to generate that coming off the loss to Scotland.
“We’ll embrace the challenge and get a bit of fear about us because we need that. We need to be a bit nervous to then hopefully reach somewhere near our potential.”
Lawes’ assertion that “you just don’t get any easy matches in rugby any more” is highly debatable.
After Italy's 28th straight championship loss last week Sam Warburton called for promotion and relegation to be introduced.
Jeremy Guscott agreed: “The match is a bye. It’s a given that whoever plays Italy is going to win. Most people would say there’s very little point them being in the competition because it’s made easier with them in it.”
Such pre-match commentary has the potential to distract England who are under huge pressure to start fast in response to their Calcutta Cup no-show.
When the two nations met back in October, Italy’s abrasive pack rattled Eddie Jones’ side, who took until the second half to exert any sort of control.
Lawes knows how dangerous a game it could therefore become were England to repeat last week’s chronic penalty-fest.
“We can’t have a penalty count like that,” he said. “We want an edge to us for sure. That’s what our pack’s built on. We want to have a bit of bite. But we need control with it.
“It comes down to individual responsibility. We’re looking to put in some big shots but we want them to be legal. You can be as physical as you need to be within the boundaries of the law.”
Two and a half years out from the World Cup, Eddie Jones won’t care that England have dropped to number three in the world rankings.
But he will be mightily bothered if they don’t win in a style that enables him to put England's tartan trauma down as a one-off horror show.
England: Daly; Watson, Slade, Farrell (capt), May; Ford, Youngs; M Vunipola, Cowan-Dickie, Sinckler, Itoje, Hill, Lawes, Curry, B Vunipola.
Replacements: George, Genge, Stuart, Ewels, Earl, Willis, Robson, Malins.
Italy: Trulla; Sperandio, Brex, Canna, Ioane; Garbisi, Varney; Lovotti, Bigi (capt), Riccioni, Lazzaroni, Sisi, Negri, Meyer, Lamaro.
Replacements: Lucchesi, Fischetti, Zilocchi, Cannone, Ruzza, Palazzani, Allan, Mori.
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