The Official Online RBS 6 Nations Store is open. The store has everything you need to get behind your team during the RBS 6 Nations, plus the store is now fully stocked with a much wider range of rugby merchandise.
Since conceding 80 points on their Championship debut to England’s prospective World Cup-winning team in London ten years ago, their margin of defeat has been trimmed during the four subsequent visits from 57 to 13.
True, it did go back up two years ago when Harry Ellis scored the last tries of a Test career truncated by injury but by then Italy had twice gone desperately close to beating England in Rome.
Nick Mallett, in his farewell season as head coach, will hardly recognise the team wearing the Red Rose at Twickenham from the one which the Italians almost rolled over in the Eternal City three years ago this very weekend. Only one player from that match, Nick Easter, will be wearing the same number for this one.
The vast majority of the other fourteen would appear to have their international future well behind them – Iain Balshaw, Paul Sackey, Jamie Noon, Lesley Vainikolo, Tim Payne, Steve Borthwick and Michael Lipman.
Two more, Mark Regan and Andy Gomarsall, have retired while Matt Stevens has only just returned after serving a two-year ban for failing a drugs test.
Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood are still there but not as they were in February 2008.
Flood, then at inside centre, has superceded his former Newcastle team-mate as England’s No. 1 stand-off and forced Jonny to settle for a place among the reserves.
Two more have survived the test of time since then -- James Haskell, who played his part in the English rearguard action at the Flaminio that day at No. 6 as the blindside flanker, and the ageless Simon Shaw, then the starting front jumper, now still very much part of the match-day 23.
The bench, as it was in Rome three years ago has been completely swept away.
Lee Mears, Jason Hobson, Ben Kay, Luke Narraway, Richard Wigglesworth, Danny Cipriani and Mathew Tait are all on the outside looking in.
Kay, the only one of the seven to have hung up his boots, is at least still looking in from a different perspective, as a television pundit.
Mallett’s problem will be to cope with an English team which, under Flood’s flowering into a Test fly half, has at last rediscovered its capacity to create tries and finish them off with panache.
Should Chris Ashton, the speedy symbol of England’s adventurous spirit, add to his two tries against Wales, then his celebrations will be toned down in keeping with some friendly management advice.
Ashton’s exaggerated dive, ball held in one hand, is not merely tempting fate but giving it a shove between the shoulder blades.
The French player who did something similar at Twickenham some years ago and duly dropped the ball before he could touch it down will vouch for that.
Scotland-Wales follows England-Italy on the bill for the second Saturday of the Championship with the promise of a rare treat if their Murrayfield set-to is anything like the match of last year’s Six Nations when Wales came from so far behind that they would gladly have settled for a draw.
Instead, the inimitable Shane Williams went one better with the winning try as Wales took ruthless advantage of a Scottish man-power crisis at a time when two of their players were marooned in the sin-bin.
After playing their part in the best game of the Championship last weekend against France in Paris, Scotland’s prospective avengers will be wary of James Hook.
His switch to fly half, his favourite position but one which the Ospreys reserve exclusively for Dan Biggar, is designed to put some fizz into the Welsh back line and end a run of eight matches without a win.
Ireland and France in Dublin on Sunday ought to ensure a fitting climax to another Six Nations weekend.
The holders, with Clement Poitrenaud starting at full back, Damien Traille filling the midfield vacancy caused by Maxime Mermoz’s injury and Yannick Jauzion recalled as bench cover, served the rest due notice last Saturday night that they intend to keep their title.
Ireland know they will need to produce something much better than they managed in Rome last week if they are to avoid losing to the French for the ninth time in the last ten matches.