Billy Twelvetrees keen to draw on lessons from 2003 heroics
MIKE Tindall cut through Ireland's beleaguered backline, blasting England en route to their first Grand Slam for eight years.
Teenage Billy Twelvetrees watched on in awe, amazed by England's confidence and control.
Now blazing a trail for Gloucester and maybe even England too, Twelvetrees the grown-up admits he is still just as startled by that world-beating 2003 international side.
Tindall has turned from idol to team-mate for Twelvetrees, but the 24-year-old is still learning from the former Bath bruiser.
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And now the summer recruit from Leicester believes England must extend the education from Clive Woodward's World Cup winners.
Twelvetrees explained: "I was 14 when I watched that 2003 World Cup side that won the Grand Slam that year too.
"I thought it was so impressive how they beat every side quite convincingly, I think that team ethos and the way the whole team was so comfortable in the gameplan, that's what Stuart and the boys are trying to create now.
"I was at school in 2003, just playing schoolboy rugby and with my mates in the park, it was all very amateur – I thought I could do anything back then!
"It's weird to think that I used to watch that team on TV, watch Mike Tindall smash through the line against Ireland as England claimed the Grand Slam – and then I end up playing alongside him in Gloucester's midfield.
"You don't tend to think about it that way too often, I think if you did then you would lose focus.
"These guys are your team-mates and friends too, so it's easy to lose sight of all that.
"But in the odd moment you can catch yourself doing a double-take, thinking 'that's Mike Tindall'.
"I watched him a lot growing up, and I always wanted to be in a successful team like that.
"Mike's great for confidence, he tells you to go out there, express yourself – and you listen because he's been out there and done it.
"And the potential chance to do something he's done, that's exciting."
Twelvetrees' remarkable Gloucester form has won him a first senior England squad call.
The shrewd playmaker faces a huge challenge to wrestle the number 12 shirt away from Saracens' muscular midfielder Brad Barritt – and does not expect a short battle.
Twelvetrees is among the most complete centres in the country, equally adept at bullish defending, tactical playmaking and aggressive line-breaking.
But forget the fancy flourishes, he said consistency in simplicity is the route to international recognition.
He continued: "Sometimes it's the small things, the simple things in rugby that count most.
"It is easy to underestimate the importance of just catching, passing, kicking and tackling well.
"It probably sounds stupid, but you've got to do those things extremely well as a basis, to be noticed.
"I think that can be the difference between a good player and a great player – someone who just never makes mistakes on the things that ought to be straightforward, but rarely are.
"Someone like Brad Barritt has been exceptional for several years now.
"He does the simple things well, he doesn't miss tackles and he carries hard.
"If I've got any chance of pushing people like that out, then it's got to be through that same kind of consistent discipline."
If Tindall happily segues Twelvetrees' adolescence and adulthood at club level, so too, he hopes, will Mike Catt and Andy Farrell with England.
Taskmaster coaches both, Twelvetrees admitted Catt and Farrell have been banging on at him and the rest of the England squad for nothing other than excellence.
England's pre-Six Nations camp at West Park RFC in Leeds last week was an eye-opener – but Twelvetrees knows he must stick to what got him there in the first place.
He said: "Catty and Faz will always be very critical, but that's just because they want you to get better and better.
"Fingers crossed I can fit into England's style, that's the aim.
"It's been good working with those coaches, having watched what they had done in their careers.
"Mike Catt, he's obviously the kind of player I modelled myself on, so it's been great to get to work with him closely, and benefit from his coaching.
"Faz's intensity and his belief in the team has been interesting too, and after just a little taste it just makes you more determined to be a part of this.
"If I didn't believe I had the ability to make an impression in the side, there would be no point being here. So I just want to put as much positive influence in the coaches' minds as possible.
"The boys did so well in the autumn against New Zealand, so I've just got to bide my time, work hard and just keep snapping at other boys' heels."