Phil Vickery is confident a revitalised England can "make a real statement" in Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash with Wales, having consigned their bleak autumn campaign to history.
Faced with an unprecedented injury list, Martin Johnson's management team effectively went into damage limitation mode for the November Tests against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand.
England laboured to a 16-9 victory over the Pumas but they were beaten by the Wallabies and the All Blacks, who both left Twickenham claiming not to have been tested at all.
Johnson has acknowledged England mis-judged the situation in November and, if not quite overseeing a complete personality transplant, he has vowed to loosen the shackles for the Six Nations.
Vickery believes the return from injury of Delon Armitage and Riki Flutey will be key to that, while Johnson will also include Nick Easter and Simon Shaw when the side is announced at lunchtime.
"I am optimistic. There have been a lot of negative things written about the England team but I am excited. I think it has got the potential to be really good," said Vickery, who is recovering from neck surgery.
"England will come up against the best Welsh team there has been for a long time. They can't be negative.
"Whatever has happened in the past, just bin it. If you are going to play a gameplan that is reasonably safe you will not stretch yourselves too much and you will not stretch the opposition. Then you get into a damage limitation exercise.
"Riki and Delon are guys with a bit more spark about them, guys who can talk.
"England this week should go out, make a real statement and lay their stall out. I am really hopeful."
Vickery's advice applies as much to the tight five as it does to the back division, where Flutey and Armitage are set to roam, because Wales will be targeting set-piece dominance.
England's front row options are extremely green compared with the total of 162 caps boasted by Lions trio Adam Jones, Matthew Rees and Gethin Jenkins.
Vickery rates the all-Welsh unit as the best in the world after they demolished South Africa for the Lions in last summer's second Test.
In contrast, Johnson only has two capped props in his squad, in Wasps loose-head Tim Payne with 15 and Bath tight-head David Wilson with four. One of uncapped pair Matt Mullan or Dan Cole will be included in the squad.
Payne has been under fire since he was put through the mincer by Cole in Leicester's Guinness Premiership win over Wasps recently.
But Vickery defended his Wasps team-mate - and backed England's inexperienced front row to hold their own against the mighty Welsh unit.
"Gethin, Adam and Reesy are the best front row in the competition, if not the best front row in world rugby," said Vickery
"You can go two ways when you face a front row like Wales' - and the England boys are more than capable of taking them on. I don't see why they should fear it. They go out there and get stuck in."