Since Italy entered the championship in 2000 they have conceded 184 points against England, with an average scoreline of 61-15.
However, England are without a dozen injured top-flight players this weekend - Martin Johnson, Neil Back, Jason Robinson, Ben Cohen and Phil Vickery among the absentees - and Woodward insists the new-look Italians will be no walkover.
"Under the last coach, Italy played a more static game, almost trying to run down the clock before they started," Woodward said.
"But this guy (John Kirwan) has come in and they are playing a lot quicker. They are far more challenging to play against, which is well done to John.
"To put a world-class flanker (Mauro Bergamasco) on the wing was a great call - it adds a bit of spice to the whole thing. Italy have their own unique style at the moment, which is a big credit to them.
"We have just got to be very direct in the early part of the game.
"The days have gone where people put big cricket scores on this Italian team. They deserved to beat Wales, and they gave Ireland a very good game two weeks ago.
"People have to understand that you are playing a very competent team. They are certainly far better coached than they were the last time we played them.
"I think that they are improving, definitely. In the early days, they could compete for 40 minutes but they couldn't go 80. Now, they can go for 80 minutes, and that can keep them in the game far longer."