James Simpson-Daniel column: Billy Twelvetrees is England's future
James Simpson-Daniel's weekly column: The Adventures of Sinbad.
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WHETHER he starts in Dublin on Sunday or not, Billy Twelvetrees has shown England the future already.
His performance against Scotland was fantastic, and just about as good a debut as anyone can hope for in international rugby.
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I will stick my neck out and say I think England will go with Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi this weekend against Ireland.
I'm not saying that's what I would do, by the way.
Tuilagi has been asked to prove his fitness after ankle trouble.
Twelvetrees, Barritt and Tuilagi will all have switched around in training this week.
The England coaches will have given every midfield option a run on the training pitch.
If Manu does come back into the side, then I don't think Billy will feel devastated.
After all, before the pre-tournament camp he wouldn't have been expecting to break into the side so quickly, let alone produce such a composed debut.
His impressive all-round display in Saturday's win over Scotland has laid down a marker for the future, though – like I said, whatever happens in Dublin.
England looked very balanced with Billy at 12 – that's what he brings to sides.
If you've got someone who wants to be expansive, keep the ball in hand and move it around, then you've got to exploit it.
Defenders will look at an England team with Owen Farrell at ten and Billy at 12, and think they have to monitor what Billy does just as much – if not more so – than what Farrell is up to.
If opponents push on to Bill because they think he will be creating more, then that naturally creates space for Farrell, and I think he exploited that room very well.
He put in a great pass over the top for Geoff Parling's try. Yes it's one he ought to be able to execute, but he pulled it off perfectly.
Farrell answered one or two critics on that attacking point, and it's exciting times for England hopefully.
The midfield situation is great too. You've got three guys there all more than worthy of starts in two positions.
Whichever two start, you've still got one on the bench to come on and change things up.
England have been clear about building towards the 2015 World Cup.
Stuart Lancaster has a clear number of caps he wants his side to possess by the time the tournament comes around.
But allied to an experienced line-up, England also need strength and ability in depth.
So selection dilemmas like having to perm two from three dangerous centres are what it's all about.
WE NEED TO SHOW RESILIENCE AGAIN NOW
IT IS a tough task for Gloucester to hit back to top form after a poor performance and result against Bath.
But the way to approach it is to demand a strong performance and not fret too much about the rest.
Once the game was gone last week, in the last ten minutes we really wanted to finish on a high.
The boys wanted to put in some big hits and make some good breaks.
But they weren’t able to do that, and I think that was a massive disappointment.
It is the first time all season we haven’t been able to stay in a game all the way to the death.
The fans wanted to see a response once we were in trouble, but unfortunately we couldn’t manage it, and that’s fair enough for them to point it out.
But we have got to get back to that resilience that has been such a strong feature of our play.
And we have got to get back to that fast.
We gave away too many soft penalties, we didn’t make them work hard for points.
And now we’ve got to revert to all the hard work and effort that has served us well so far this term.
DON'T WRITE OFF FRANCE AFTER SURPRISE DEFEAT
ONE weekend in and I’ve already got egg on my face in the Six Nations.
The French went and blew my first prediction, of course.
I tipped them as my favourites for the title – and so they went and lost in Italy in the opening round.
In the times when they secured good field position they scored points – but they hardly spent any time in Italy’s half of the field.
In the middle area of the field they looked a little bit lost. They didn’t play with the expected width.
But aside from talking down the French, I’ve got to praise the Italians.
Their pack looked fantastic, and so did their half-backs.
Their big challenge now is to capitalise on this France victory and prove they have generated new Six Nations staying-power.
I would still say watch out for France, though. They could produce an almighty response this weekend.
And while the Grand Slam is already out of the question, they could certainly still claim the title – but it would need a classic Gallic U-turn, naturally.
CAPTAIN Conan came good for me last week, so hopefully I can get on a roll with the tips now.
Silviniaco Conti will take on a strong field in Saturday’s Denman Chase (2.25pm) at Newbury.
It’s a warm-up for Cheltenham’s Gold Cup, which is starting to loom large.
And I reckon the Paul Nicholls-trained horse will bring it home this weekend.