- England centre looks back at 30-3 defeat in Cardiff
- “We're calmer on the field and make better decisions” – Twelvetrees
As a second-half replacement, Billy Twelvetrees only had to endure 16 minutes of England’s 30-3 defeat to Wales a year ago. However, that short period was enough to leave an impression on his psyche and make the Gloucester Rugby centre intent on avenging the comprehensive loss on Sunday at Twickenham.
Since that match at the Millennium Stadium last March, which obliterated Stuart Lancaster’s designs on a Grand Slam, Twelvetrees has been part of a steady resurgence.
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In eight subsequent Tests, there has been no trace of that fragility – only New Zealand and France managing to overturn England, each by a narrow margin.
Twelvetrees has started seven of those eight internationals in the number 12 shirt and, looking back on a cruel but crucial lesson in Cardiff, explained the constructive aspects of being thrashed by Warren Gatland’s outfit.
“It was a difficult time for us so to come on and try and make a difference when we were down on the scoreboard was quite tough,” he said.
“The atmosphere was pretty daunting – you love to play in those situations because of how big the occasion is, but it ended up being disappointing and hurt us.
“Watching Wales win the Championship at the final whistle was hard to take, but the boys have licked their wounds. We’re completely different group now. As players and management we’ve changed our perspective a little bit and mentally we’re stronger and smarter.
“We’re calmer on the field too, and make better decisions because of that. Although we didn’t win, you could look how we came back in the France game to prove that. The same goes for the Ireland game. We won against a very experienced side and felt we had even more to give.”
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Assured, clear decision-making is certainly a pre-requisite if England are to secure the Triple Crown this weekend. Twelvetrees believes his side is “ready” to clinch a first piece clean-sweep of the Home Nations since 2003, but also knows opposite number and fellow British and Irish Lions tourist Jamie Roberts can be a very influential figure.
“Jamie’s just a strict professional and works extremely hard,” Twelvetrees added. “He rarely makes mistakes and he’s always getting over the gainline and making breaks.
“He very rarely misses tackles, too. Those are the sort of players you want to play against, the best in the world. It'll be the same as two weeks ago against Ireland – Wales have threats all over the park that we’ll have to nullify.
“As a player you always want to play in the biggest games and there’s no bigger game in international rugby than England versus Wales.
“Wales are an experienced outfit who are used to playing with each other and beating France [last Friday] was a great effort, but we’re a talented group as well and we’re starting to get the best out of each other.”