After waiting more than seven months for this Six Nations decider against Italy, England are braced for a Test of patience in Rome on Saturday. Excitement, emotion and impatience must be kept in check.
A game which was supposed to have taken place in front of a capacity crowd on March 14 is now going ahead against a backdrop of deserted stands and rigorous health and safety measures.
The visitors will win - that is a sporting certainty - but the key for Eddie Jones’s side is that they remain composed and avoid the trap of trying to force the pace too soon in the quest for a bonus point and a try spree.
England are braced for a Test of patience ahead of the crunch Six Nations decider against Italy
England’s players are straining at the leash after their long international hiatus and have so much to play for in the locked-down Eternal City.
A third Six Nations title of the Jones era is the prize in their sights but they also want to deliver a performance worthy of an occasion with layers of significance.
Ben Youngs is reaching a Test century, Jamie George is celebrating his 50th cap and Exeter lock Jonny Hill is making his debut, with others on the bench primed to do likewise.
A third Six Nations title of the Eddie Jones (above) era is the prize in their sights on Saturday
No wonder there is such a pronounced sense of anticipation within the England ‘bubble’. However, captain Owen Farrell and his team-mates understand the importance of keeping their heads and playing with disciplined ferocity.
They want to start fast but also start smart. They are aware of the dangers of being too eager, too frantic and too loose too soon. The need to be patient will be drummed into them.
‘That’s exactly the message,’ said George. ‘It’s about patience in international rugby. Obviously we’ve been waiting for the game for a long time and everyone is going to be desperate to get out there. We had our team run and it’s 20 degrees here in Rome so the tendency would be to go out and throw the ball around but we are very focused on our game-plan.
‘Italy don’t just roll over, they’re going to be very up for it. We need to be very confrontational and physical at the start of the game and I think that’s when English rugby’s at its best and this team’s at its best. Hopefully points will come off the back of that.
There is a sense of anticipation inside England's camp but the players must remain