Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Twelvetrees aiming to impress

Billy Twelvetrees, pictured, is aiming to impress in midfield for England
Billy Twelvetrees, pictured, is aiming to impress in midfield for England

Billy Twelvetrees is determined to mastermind the transformation of England's heavily-maligned midfield into the creative hub of the team.

Not since the World Cup-winning axis of Will Greenwood and Mike Tindall have England fielded a settled centre partnership capable of troubling the opposition.

Manu Tuilagi's chest injury means either Brad Barritt or Luther Burrell will be installed alongside Twelvetrees for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations opener against France in Paris.

An underwhelming autumn saw the selection of Joel Tomkins at 13 prove to be a dead-end and Twelvetrees is eager to make the latest midfield reincarnation succeed.

"You get scrutinised in whatever position you play. We've got huge ambition," the Gloucester playmaker said.

"Personally I have massive ambition to play in the centre for England and do as well as I can, creating things so that we can score tries.

"It's up to us at 10-12-13 to create opportunities, to punch holes and to give boys space. We definitely have the personnel to do that.

"Week-in, week-out in the Premiership the boys are scoring tries and creating opportunities, it's just about getting the balance right and doing it in an England shirt."

Twelvetrees' position at inside centre has been secured following an autumn of fluctuating fortunes.

A poor match against Australia which brought his defence under the spotlight was met with a swift vote of confidence from head coach Stuart Lancaster.

Retained against Argentina and New Zealand, the 25-year-old marked his seventh and eighth caps by producing in patches the ball-playing skills that England's management rate so highly.

"It was massive to have Stuart's trust. You want the coach to trust you and you want the players' trust around you," Twelvetrees said.

"That was particularly important for that second game after having not played not so well in the first one.

"I was fully aware of that and wanted to crack on and put it to bed. I thought I did that. In the last two games I was pleased with what happened.

"The loss to New Zealand was obviously disappointing but I felt we really fronted up and took it to them. It was a huge learning curve."

Lancaster names his team to face France on Thursday morning and the identity of Twelvetrees' midfield partner is one of the main talking points.

Barritt, whose defensive steel and organisation is valued by England, recently returned from a foot problem, but uncapped Burrell is likely to start at outside centre.

Burrell has played most of his rugby at 12, but Twelvetrees believes the two can operate in tandem.

"My role won't change much at all if Luther is there," Twelvetrees said.

"Generally you're only together in the first phase and after that you're probably split or all over the place.

"The number on your back doesn't sometimes represent the position you're playing in."

ends

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