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Twelvetrees gets another chance


Owen Farrell has been dropped for the match against Australia

Owen Farrell has been dropped for the match against Australia

Owen Farrell has been dropped for the match against Australia

England have returned to Billy Twelvetrees to help solve their perennial midfield conundrum after forgiving the high-profile blunder in New Zealand that plunged his Test future into doubt.

Twelvetrees will line-up inside Brad Barritt for Saturday's autumn finale against Australia at Twickenham - the fifth centre partnership in six games selected by head coach Stuart Lancaster.

Four weeks ago the 26-year-old's prospects for the QBE Series were bleak, but with Kyle Eastmond discarded after the three-point defeats by New Zealand and South Africa and Owen Farrell failing to deliver against Samoa, he is now restored at inside centre.

It is a position he last held against the All Blacks in Dunedin in June, a match that saw him rushed back from an ankle injury and start strongly before an ill-advised off-load led to a try for Ben Smith that was a turning point in a game that had been finely poised.

He was dropped for the final Test a week later and appeared to be exhausting England's patience, only to now reappear in a midfield that is in a constant state of flux.

"This is professional sport and the stage we are on is highly competitive," said Twelvetrees, who starts in place of Owen Farrell after appearing as a second-half replacement in the 28-9 victory over Samoa.

"It's cut-throat and if you make one loose pass against the world champions they will score from it. I was very disappointed at the time to have been dropped.

"I'm fully aware of the chance I have now and I'm very excited. When you look at something from the outside and are not involved you just want it more."

Twelvetrees has hinted at a potential to become England's first-choice inside centre - a problematic position since the retirement of Will Greenwood in 2004 - throughout his 15 caps.

Lancaster's main misgiving, however, is the lapses in concentration that have led directly to two opposition tries - being bumped off in the tackle by Australia centre Matt Toomua last November and gifting Smith his touch down in the summer.

"The step we need him to take with Billy is consistency. That is the message that he'll be getting and we will continue to work with him in that regard," Lancaster said.

"Billy's application in training and the way he has worked on his game is the reason he's got the nod.

"Going into this game, Billy has the opportunity to nail his place down for the Six Nations. And of course there is Manu Tuilagi coming back into the equation.

"From what I've seen in training, Billy Twelvetrees and George Ford work pretty well together. The proof will be in the pudding."

Ford will make a strong case for his retention at fly-half for the Six Nations opener against Wales on February 6 - England's next match after the visit of the Wallabies - if he scales similar heights to those seen against Samoa.

Dropped for the first time since June 2012, Farrell must console himself with a supporting role from the bench knowing Ford is now in the driving seat to continue in the number 10 jersey.

Ford and Twelvetrees played together at Leicester before their club careers took them to Bath and Gloucester, respectively.

"I played with Billy for a long time at Leicester and we've kept really close since. He's just down the road at Gloucester and we see each other all the time," Ford said.

"It's good to play with someone you have a relationship with because you can talk about the game really easily.

"We played in the A League for Leicester together and we played at 10 and 12. Billy likes playing 12 more than he does 10 although he is very capable of playing 10 as well."

Two further changes have been made to the starting XV that dispatched Samoa with Northampton forwards Dylan Hartley and Tom Wood restored to the pack.

Hartley replaces Rob Webber at hooker after being punished by Lancaster with demotion to the bench for receiving a brainless yellow card against the Springboks and Wood swaps places with James Haskell at blindside flanker.

Webber and Haskell are among the replacements with Lancaster having named an unchanged matchday 23.