Gloucester Rugby have helped me launch England career – Billy Twelvetrees
BILLY Twelvetrees believes Gloucester's 'time and effort' have launched his England career.
The 24-year-old centre has thanked the Cherry and Whites for helping him hit the Six Nations stage with a bang.
When Twelvetrees swapped Leicester for Gloucester in the summer, he was simply focused on securing regular Premiership rugby.
Now he is poised to win his third cap as England take on old foes France at Twickenham this afternoon (kick-off 5pm).
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If they see off ex-Gloucester coach Philippe Saint-Andre's Les Bleus today, England may just dare think about the Grand Slam.
Reflecting on his whirlwind half-season since arriving at Kingsholm, Twelvetrees also backed a host of other young Gloucester stars to follow him into Stuart Lancaster's England line-up.
He said: "Moving to Gloucester was a massive life decision, but it's already paid off enormously.
"They have put a lot of time and effort into me and I am hugely grateful for all of that.
"Hopefully I'm doing – and will continue – to do okay by them as well.
"Playing regularly in the league has helped bring about this opportunity with England, and I'm very grateful for that opportunity with Gloucester.
"Playing week on week, you learn quickly.
"And we're in a Gloucester team that want to express ourselves, it's the game I want to play, and I think everyone in the backline plays that way too.
"We're getting better and better at the club, and it's a very exciting time.
"It's a great club going forward and I'm sure a lot more Gloucester players will force their way into the England set-up in the next couple of years.
"I'm definitely improving as a player all the time, just as I have all season with Gloucester, so this is helping me move forward and get better too.
"The coaches are pushing us very hard, they are getting us to hammer what we need to improve, and every day you can feel yourself getting better."
Manu Tuilagi's return to full fitness means Twelvetrees takes a seat on the bench today.
The Wisborough Green man would never feign satisfaction among the substitutes.
But he cannot wait to enter the fray, if as expected he is sent into second-half action.
England boss Lancaster cites three critical battles against the French: the set-pieces, the gain-line and the broken-field play.
Leicester bulldozer Tuilagi is restored to capitalise on that gain-line battle – but Lancaster said Twelvetrees could prove crucial to the broken-field work as the game loses shape in the last quarter.
Courtney Lawes' presence at the lineout tail should allow quick off-the-top ball for England to smash the gain-line through their centres.
Tuilagi is obviously first in the queue for that job, but Twelvetrees is eyeing something similar himself.
He said: "Statistics-wise the French have the best lineout in the Six Nations so far.
"If you don't win any set-piece ball then you are basically nullifying your backs off first-phase, of course.
"I think those moves in the pack are quite shrewd, and if I can get onto the pitch then I'd love to benefit from Courtney being at the tail there, to get across the gain line in midfield if that's the plan.
"Stuart telling you there's a good chance you will come off the bench – that gives you a lot of confidence.
"He challenges the bench to come on and change the game, and you can't ask for any more than that.
"I just hope I get the chance – once you get a taste at this level, you just want more and more."
With two defeats in two and unrest in the camp, just when France should have rocketed into the tournament they have failed to fire at all.
Wary Twelvetrees admits England are having none of it though.
"We'd be stupid to underestimate France," he admitted.
"They have a lot to prove and they will be pumped up by that.
"They're coming to Twickenham with a very strong side.
"And anyone coming to Twickenham always raises their game.
"Francois Trinh-Duc and Wesley Fofana are right up there with the most dangerous ball-players in the world.
"It's an amazing challenge."
England new boys are forced to sing to their team-mates after their debut.
Twelvetrees has already treated his peers to two renditions of The Temptations' soul classic My Girl – and fears it could be third time lucky tonight.
He added: "I've had to sing after both the Scotland and Ireland games.
"And I'll probably have to do it again this weekend as well!
"I'd be lying if I said I hadn't practised ahead of the first time – I wouldn't call myself a natural singer! A few of the lads can belt a tune out, so I had a lot to live up to.
"In some ways it probably helped calm my nerves in the week, because I kept thinking about that and not worrying about the game."