These teams came into the championship with rather differing expectations, with England hoping for a Grand Slam and Italy hoping to avoid the wooden spoon.
Both teams performed well in their opening matches; England will be pleased that they were able to overcome Wales in Cardiff, and Italy will be slightly disappointed that they just failed to beat Ireland in a tight match in Rome.
It was the Italian scrum that was the foundation for their good performance, and this will be a key area of the game this week. England did lose some scrums from their own put-in against the Welsh, and they will need to improve in this area to match the Italians.
Alex Corbisiero will make his debut in the loosehead prop position, replacing the injured Andrew Sheridan. He will be up against the formidable Martin Castrogiovanni, and this battle could be key to the outcome of the scrums.
The Italian backs showed good execution to score the try against Ireland. However, they are fairly inexperienced, and they lack the precision that is necessary to penetrate the England defence on a regular basis. Consequently, the main attacking threat from Italy will come through the forwards, so England must defend well around the breakdown.
England have named an unchanged side for this fixture and will be hoping that Toby Flood can orchestrate the game to the same extent that he did last Friday. The one area of concern will be the centres; Shontayne Hape looks out of form and was at fault for Wales’ try, and Mike Tindall does not possess the same speed that he once did.
However, the attacking talents of other players in the England side, such as Ben Foden and Chris Ashton, should be too much for the Italians, and England will surely run in a few tries.
The fact that this match is at Twickenham means that despite the Italian side looking as good as it has for many years, England should turn out to be easy winners in this game.