It was going to be tough, England players and coaches had assured us all week.
Never mind those turning up at Twickenham expecting the sort of try-fest that marked encounters between the countries in the first half-dozen years of the Six Nations.
Martin Johnson was unequivocal. Substance over style was the mantra. The number one priority was to win. Second? No serious injuries. Only then would he consider if it was a good game or not.
With a try on the board with barely two minutes on the clock and three more by half-time, the first objective was achieved by the interval. Only bumps and bruises were reported post-match.
Which left Johnson in unfamiliar territory after his effervescent troops profited royally from some hapless Italian defence and their own ambition to plunder eight tries in all, second only to the 10 they put past the Azzurri in a record 80-point thrashing in 2001.