- Gloucester Rugby's Billy Twelvetrees aiming to start further games after strong debut
- Happy to get my hands on the ball and influence the game –Twelvetrees
After scoring a try on his international debut against Scotland and “getting his hands on the ball” Billy Twelvetrees is hoping that he has created a selection headache for the England coaches.
A quick look at the Gloucester centre’s stats from the 38-18 victory at Twickenham suggests an influential presence on the outcome. In addition to running a sharp line and collecting Ben Youngs’ flat pass to crash through Dougie Hall and Jim Hamilton for his try in the 43rd minute, the No.12 was third in terms of ball carrying (12) and third in terms of metres gained (62).
Also, tellingly, the man directly outside him, Brad Barritt, carried the ball 14 times, a sign of accurate distribution to his midfield partner.
The 24-year-old, who dominated his opponent with a quarter of his carries, said: “I was trying to get my hands on the ball as often as I could and influence the game, everyone wants to score and I got an opportunity in the second half. Lenny [Ben Youngs] picked me out well and I just had to get over the line.
“I’m delighted, it was a huge honour to run out with the white shirt on and sing the anthem in front of a great Twickenham crowd and to get on the scoreboard was equally as good, with the win terrific.
“If you’re going to be in the team you’ve got to influence the game – there’s no point in being there otherwise. For me it was about helping the team and getting them in the right areas, and hopefully I did that.”
Twelvetrees was given an opportunity by Head Coach Stuart Lancaster in the absence of his former Leicester Tigers teammate Manu Tuilagi, who missed the Scotland victory with an ankle injury.
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With Tuilagi, who has scored four tries in his last four England games, expected to be available for the trip to face Ireland in Dublin, the England coaches have a tough decision to make.
Twelvetrees feels his partnership with Barritt went well and is philosophical about what he can do given the ominous returning presence of Tuilagi.
“I’ve just got to focus on doing what I do well, which is getting the team in the right areas and getting my hands on the ball. I can only try as hard as I can and hopefully I’ve created a bit of a dilemma for the coaches.
“Both Brad and I both like to carry the ball, we both like to get stuck into the horrible parts too. That’s part of what I’ve been doing this year for Gloucester and I just wanted to carry that on for England. Owen [Farrell] gave us a great platform to play off and when the forwards are going forwards it always puts us in a good position as well.”
The tone from the England team after the match was job done, but there is much more to come against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium next Sunday (March 10).
Twelvetrees’ opinion aligns with that, saying the main positive was that England created many chances but within that they should remember an offload is not always the number one option.
England made 19 successful offloads but also made 11 handling errors: “We got off the blocks well and were playing some quick stuff, the boys were blowing a bit but really enjoying themselves out there.
“We probably offloaded a bit too much, we turned over a bit too much ball and they went the length of the pitch and scored. We needed to tighten it up a bit and we did that in the second half.
“We’re fully aware of what we did well but we can’t hide away from the fact that we left a lot of chances out there and did some bad things too. The first game for a while is going to be a bit rusty but the good thing is that we created a lot of chances and were playing some good rugby.”