Finishing the match at Twickenham arguably stronger than England, Italy showed the form that saw them sink France in their opener rather than that they produced in defeats to Wales and Scotland.
Ireland are one of the sides that Italy have never beaten in the RBS 6 Nations and while they were humbled 42-10 last year in Dublin, Ireland needed a Ronan O'Gara drop goal to seal a 13-11 win last time out in Rome in 2011.
And Brunel's side will be desperate to end that unfavourable record, especially as finishing last remains a distinct possibility.
"The two halves against England were quite different. In the first half we saw England with a lot of possession," said Brunel. "We are on the right road and moving in the right direction.
"We defended well but we still had a few penalties in the first half, we had one or two good kicks and we nearly scored a try.
"The second half was quite different. Italy showed character. We showed we wanted to fight the England team. We had good possession of the ball but England had more discipline than we did and we incurred a few penalties.
"The difference was our level of freshness. We tried to train less hard in the week leading up to this match in order to have the level of freshness we saw at the end."
Italy are without prop Martin Castrogiovanni, who has failed to recover from the thigh injury sustained against England, so Lorenzo Cittadini gets the nod while Andrea Lo Cicero is restored to the starting line-up to win his 103rd cap and Simone Favaro comes into the back row for the injured Robert Barbieri.
Ireland, meanwhile, are walking wounded after France's comeback in Dublin ensured the sides drew for the second year in a row in the RBS 6 Nations, leaving Declan Kidney's men with only one win in the competition so far - a 30-22 victory over Wales in their first match.
Eoin Reddan suffered a broken leg while Fergus McFadden picked up a rib injury and both will miss the trip to Rome while Kidney must also do without Jonny Sexton, who was originally named in the side but suffered a fresh ankle injury on Thursday.
Brian O'Driscoll has recovered from the dead leg he collected against France however, ensuring there is just one change to Ireland's starting XV - fit again Craig Gilroy returning on the right wing in place of McFadden.
"We took a conscious decision that we wouldn't complain about things. Other people are worse off than we are, plus it's such an insult to the lads coming on and having a huge go," Kidney said.
"We're frustrated, but there are lads coming in who have no experience at this level under their belts and are doing such a good job for us.
"I've never experienced an injury run like this, but you work your way through and I spoke to (captain) Jamie Heaslip about it and we agreed not complain."