Six Nations: Billy Twelvetrees: We have to learn from Italian lesson
RELIEVED Billy Twelvetrees believes England must heed an Italian 'kick up the backside' to have any chance of landing the Grand Slam.
The Gloucester centre admitted Stuart Lancaster's England were fortunate to edge past the Azzurri at Twickenham yesterday to extend their 100 per cent Six Nations record.
Fly-half Toby Flood slotted six penalties as England ground to an 18-11 victory that was anything but straightforward.
Luke McLean's sucker-punch try compounded England butchering several gilt-edged scoring chances.
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Cherry and Whites pivot Twelvetrees had to wait until the 67th minute for any action, replacing Brad Barritt in England's misfiring midfield.
The 24-year-old was sent on to light any kind of spark in England's back division – but instead spent his entire cameo defending frantically.
And when Courtney Lawes stole an Italy lineout deep in England territory, Twelvetrees admitted the entire England backline wiped their collective brow.
The former Leicester playmaker explained: "It was definitely a sense of relief all-round when Courtney nicked that lineout.
"That's when we knew we would probably have an easier last couple of minutes than the five we had just spent without the ball in our own half.
"It was a privilege to be sent into the game in that situation, to be challenged to try to help make something happen and maybe change the momentum of the game.
"That wasn't to be the case though, and I spent the whole time defending.
"But I am proud of the fact we held out, held firm and didn't let them cut through. There were some frantic moments, but sometimes that's what happens in games like that where it's a real grind."
England now face Wales in Cardiff on Saturday (kick-off 5pm) in a Six Nations title decider – and if they win they will claim the Grand Slam.
Twelvetrees said Lancaster's men know they must raise their performance levels markedly to have any chance of completing that Grand Slam dream.
He continued: "We never really got our game going, and it's a kick up the backside for next week, that's for sure.
"It's a fantastic situation for the whole squad to head to Cardiff with everything on the line.
"But we cannot get caught up in that.
"We were nowhere near our best against Italy, and we've got a huge amount to work on this week in training.
"But at least we got the result, and there will certainly be no sense of complacency – far from it."
England were fortunate in the event to emerge with victory.
After bungling several straightforward try chances, the home side crumbled.
Italy talisman Sergio Parisse showed his world class again, deftly guiding his side around the field, flummoxing England all too often.
But it was a howler of a box kick from Danny Care that gifted Italy their try.
His clearance skewed straight up and back down, and Italy pounced.
One phase later Luciano Orquera chipped wide for McLean to collect and dot down, dumbfounding England's petrified backline.
England's lack of ingenuity behind the scrum eventually led for Lancaster to call for Twelvetrees.
He found himself putting in nothing but tackles when he wanted to cut some smart lines and throw some incisive passes.
His first action was to make a big tackle and cop a black eye for his troubles.
He admitted he has no idea how the shiner came about.
Twelvetrees added: "I went in for a tackle and just ended up with this fat eye.
"Manu Tuilagi just turned round and asked 'are you okay bro?'
"Maybe it was his fault!"
Black and blue England need to polish up their act to hold out any hope of completing the Grand Slam at the Millennium Stadium this weekend.