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Billy Twelvetrees can handle D'Arcy and O'Driscoll pressure against Ireland in Dublin, backs Stuart Lancaster

By Nick_Purewal  |  Posted: February 08, 2013

Comments (23)

BILLY Twelvetrees can handle the step up in pressure in Dublin – and deserves to keep his place in the England side, believes Stuart Lancaster.

Lancaster admitted Gloucester centre Twelvetrees’ try-scoring debut against Scotland last week showed he can thrive at international level.

The England boss said he would be comfortable selecting any combination of Twelvetrees, Brad Barritt and fit-again Manu Tuilagi.

But in the end the former Leeds coach conceded that Twelvetrees warranted a second start – as the man in both good form and possession of the shirt.

Hailing the 24-year-old’s composure, Lancaster backed Twelvetrees to handle taking on Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday (kick-off 3pm).

Ireland’s vastly experienced and accomplished midfield will pose an entirely new level of challenge for Twelvetrees – but Lancaster is unfazed.

England’s head coach explained: “When I told him he was in the side he took it in his stride and I think he will give another good account of himself in Dublin.

“He deserves to keep his place, as does Brad, who has been excellent for us over a sustained period of time.

“I could have gone with Brad and Manu, Billy and Manu or Billy and Brad.

“It’s a great problem to have, and we need as many difficult decisions like that as possible.

“The Billy-Brad partnership worked well against Scotland and it deserves to have another chance against Ireland.

“Billy had a great debut, he is very calm and he doesn’t let things faze him.”

Leicester’s wrecking-ball centre Tuilagi is fit for the first time in a month after ankle trouble.

The powerhouse line-breaker did not feature in England’s 38-18 victory over Scotland at Twickenham last weekend.

But debutant Twelvetrees and defensive fulcrum Barritt coped admirably in his absence.

Lancaster said while Tuilagi is ready for action, it would have been a brave call to send him into the fray from the off and expect him to stay the full course.

Instead he will be deployed as a second-half match-changing weapon from a bench stacked with experience.

England were outmuscled and out-thought in Ireland two years ago, slumping to a comprehensive defeat.

Lancaster has warned his players that if they fail to find the delicate mental balance to meet the Irish challenge, they will come unstuck in a flash.

Confident the rookie Twelvetrees can cope, Lancaster added: “If you are not up for it enough, it’s all over – if you’re up for it too much, it’s all over.

“It’s a very delicate balance playing Ireland in Dublin.

“It’s another new challenge for players like Billy, but he’ll be comfortable with that, as they all will.

“They understand the size of the task; we’ve been clear on that all week.”

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  • alex_bound  |  February 10 2013, 9:33AM

    Rupert Harden has 10 starts out of 14 premiership games for Gloucester this season, plus another two. That makes him the top rated tight head at Gloucester in anyone's books (except for the sad troll akadau/Django_6 who is pretty clueless about everything, really).

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  • CurtDowne  |  February 10 2013, 9:31AM

    Nigel Davies picks the team. He has a choice of tight heads, yet, when it comes to the key games, he always goes for Harden.

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  • Drusus  |  February 10 2013, 9:29AM

    Harden has been having a storming season. It is no wonder he has been selected to start the most games of all the front row forwards. And not just any old games. It has been the key games where you need your best players.

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  • LucaTowers  |  February 10 2013, 9:28AM

    Rupert Harden is an utterly brilliant tight head and Nigel Davies knows it, hence 10 out of 14 Premiership starts and 10 utterly fantastic performances.

    |   6
  • Archie_Brew  |  February 10 2013, 9:26AM

    Harden had a fantastic performance on Saturday, just as he has had for the season so far.

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  • Steve_George  |  February 10 2013, 9:24AM

    Laugh at the clueless multi-troll akadau/Django_G. He hates the fact that the Gloucester scrum dominated with Rupert Harden the key man at tight head against one of the strongest front rows in the Premiership. He predicted that the Gloucester scrum would fold and it didn't. Rupert Harden played the full 80 minutes and Harden saw off Tonga'uiha (note the correct spelling) who had had enough after 56 minutes.

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  • StanFromGlaws  |  February 10 2013, 9:18AM

    Nigel Davies, that astute and knowledgeable DoR at Gloucester Rugby has made Harden his first choice tight-head, selecting Harden to start 10 out of 14 Premiership games and that includes all the tough games against oppositions with a reputation for having strong front rows, such as Saints yesterday. Says it all, really.

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  • Brasher  |  February 10 2013, 9:14AM

    Harden = the best tight head at Gloucester.

    |   6
  • Wilson640  |  February 10 2013, 9:12AM

    Rupert Harden owns the tight head spot.

    |   7
  • Deadeye_Glaws  |  February 10 2013, 9:10AM

    Harden owns the number 3 shirt. He has no real competition for it.

    |   7