Six Nations: Billy Twelvetrees faces sink or swim England chance
BILLY Twelvetrees admits he faces a sink-or-swim England debut tomorrow – and he cannot wait for the pressure.
The Gloucester centre knows he has no time to warm to international rugby against Scotland at Twickenham (kick-off 4pm).
Calcutta Cup intensity would be enough in itself, but Leicester's injured wrecking-ball centre Manu Tuilagi will be fit to return in next weekend's Ireland clash.
Twelvetrees concedes he must make a startling impression against the Scots to stop England boss Stuart Lancaster reverting to the favoured pairing of Brad Barritt and Tuilagi for the Dublin trip.
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But he is confident he can produce a performance to keep him in the England side beyond his debut in tomorrow's Six Nations opener.
The 24-year-old explained: "In a weird way I've always enjoyed being nervous, looking forward to what could be.
"At the basic level, rugby is just catching, passing and tackling.
"I'll just try to play with the same enthusiasm I do every week for Gloucester.
"You've got to enjoy it, and you've got to relish it, otherwise there's no point being in this job.
"I play the game because I love it, this is the biggest stage, I've always dreamed of this and I can't wait to run out there now.
"I'm very aware of Manu not being there but it's a great opportunity for me, and I just want to take the chance I've been given.
"Whichever team I've played in growing up, you get your opportunity through injury sometimes, and you've got to make it your own.
"I've got to impose myself on the game and get my hands on the ball, otherwise there's no point being there.
"So I just want to get my hands on the ball and show everyone what I can do.
"Being in the side from the start, there's almost no excuses, I can plan ahead and work out what I'm going to do, and I'm looking forward to that side of things.
"It's very much over to me now: it's all on me how well I perform.
"All the players had one-on-ones with Stuart in the week, I was called in and he let me know.
"I was very excited, humbled and honoured to be named in the side, and I'm looking forward to the challenge ahead."
Twelvetrees has only had a month in England's Elite Player Squad.
The former Leicester playmaker said he arrived in England's pre-Six Nations camp in Leeds last week intent on wasting no time proving his prowess.
He continued: "Making the full squad confirmed I'm worthy of a place, it officially makes you one of the best in England.
"It really gave me the confidence to go out there and show in a short space of time what I've got, and prove to the guys around me what I'm good at.
"I just thought, 'This is my time to really nail it down, and take my opportunity'.
"Being named in the squad is one thing, but I thought there's no point being in the squad if you're not going to play.
"I just wanted to train hard, get my hands on the ball, get stuck in and start communicating with the boys.
"We all want the same goal, winning for England, so getting adjusted quickly was important."
Lancaster could have handled the Tuilagi injury by drafting in Leicester's Toby Flood, and pairing Saracens duo Barritt and Owen Farrell in the centres.
Twelvetrees' natural aptitude for the inside centre role and his varied threats swayed the England boss' decision.
And now the former Bedford Blues pivot is relishing the chance to strike up a strong rapport with increasingly-accomplished fly-half Farrell.
He added: "We're both very ambitious players, we want to control the game around us, we're obviously comfortable kicking and passing, but we both like getting our heads in the dark areas as well.
"We've been building on that relationship this week, we've been having meetings to make sure we're singing off the same hymn sheet to make sure it works perfectly for us."