But they won't be treating the Italians lightly - far from it.
The Azzurri's Six Nations record is poor - two wins from 20 starts - but both of those victories were at home in their first game of a championship, against Scotland (2000) and Wales last season.
And England, especially their meticulous coaching staff, have taken note.
"Italy are the most physical team in the northern hemisphere," said England's defence strategist Phil Larder.
"They are very aggressive, and they've also got some outstanding ball-carriers."
England are braced for that physical onslaught, especially during the opening 20 minutes, when Italy will relish being the first team to have a go at rugby's world champions since Johnson lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy three months ago.
Ultimately though, England's superior forward power, coupled with searing pace behind the scrum, should inflict a heavy toll.
The likes of Iain Balshaw, Josh Lewsey, Ben Cohen and Jason Robinson could potentially shred Italy's defence to ribbons, and if England get it right, then an extensive damage-limitation exercise beckons for the home side.
A comfortable victory is expected for new England captain Lawrence Dallaglio and his players, but Italy, as they always do in Rome, will throw everything at them.