England prop Graham Rowntree is braced for a major examination of the world champions' RBS 6 Nations title credentials in Cardiff on Saturday.
Welsh confidence is high following mighty autumn displays, albeit both in defeat, against New Zealand and South Africa, while a much-changed England are without injured World Cup stars like Jonny Wilkinson, Mike Tindall, Will Greenwood and Richard Hill.
After Wales, England take on France at Twickenham before tackling tournament favourites Ireland in Dublin, so a defeat this weekend could derail their campaign before it leaves base camp.
''We could have happily done with being at home in the first match, instead of being in Wales,'' said Leicester forward Rowntree, who will win his 49th cap.
''We have huge respect for Wales. We watched them in the autumn internationals, and they were highly impressive.
''The power in their side is more spread out, and the forwards are very mobile. You have to look at the threat from the forwards now, and names like Gavin Henson in the backs spring to mind. He is a very exciting player.
''You look at the Six Nations this season and it is wide open,'' he added.
''We have a major task on our plate going down to Wales, and we know what we are up against.''
As head coach Stuart Lancaster polishes the axe he will soon wield over his World Cup training squad, Exeter Chiefs coach Rob Baxter has backed Jack Nowell, Henry Slade and Luke Cowan-Dickie to be given a stay of execution.
Italy Under-20s held off a late Samoa blitz to retain their place in the World Rugby U20 Championship on Saturday and head coach Alessandro Troncon believes the experience will have served as a valuable lesson for his young troops.