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RBS 6 Nations: Billy Twelvetrees gets Stuart Lancaster's backing

By The Citizen  |  Posted: March 07, 2014

Billy Twelvetrees

Billy Twelvetrees has been backed to shackle Wales’ most capped centre pairing.

The Gloucester star will go head-to-head with British and Irish Lions duo Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies, who boast 98 caps between them, in tomorrow’s Six Nations encounter at Twickenham.

Twelvetrees has received widespread criticism from the likes of former England scrum-half Matt Dawson for his contribution in the Championship so far.

But Stuart Lancaster reckons the Cherry and White midfield maestro can take centre-stage alongside Luther Burrell against Wales’ experienced duo.

Lancaster said: “Billy has been excellent and has not had much criticism from us.

“He came through that Australia game in the autumn and really took on from there against Argentina and New Zealand and has been exceptional in the Six Nations.

“As a partnership, as they showed in the Lions’ Third test, Roberts and Davies are very cohesive, they understand each other, are young, run good lines and defend well together.

“But I like to think I can say the same about the two that have played together for us this campaign. They both run good lines, are physical, aggressive and are good defenders and decision makers.

“Roberts and Davies have the experience and more game time together but our two will be more than ready. Billy’s full of confidence.”

In total Wales boast nine Lions from the victorious third Test in Sydney, plus tour captain Sam Warburton, three-time tourist Gethin Jenkins and Gloucester-born Alex Cuthbert in their starting line-up.

England by contrast have just one in Owen Farrell, but Lancaster is confident in his side’s form and insists reputations will count for little come kick-off.

He said: “Our form has been good and we’ve developed as a group but Wales on their day can beat anybody. You can see that from the quality in their selection.

“But it’s not what happened in the past or happens in the future, it’s the best team on the day that will win and the form book goes out the window.

“Come 2017 when the next Lions selection is made I would be surprised if there weren’t more England players in it.”

Wales have won the last four encounters between the sides and romped to a record 30-3 victory on the last occasion the two sides met.

During that Millennium Stadium encounter England failed to adapt to Steve Walsh’s refereeing interpretations at the set-piece and breakdown and they were punished by the deadly boot of Leigh Halfpenny.

Lancaster is confident England have addressed those problems, but he has urged his side to produce an emotionally-charged, but disciplined, performance to clinch the Triple Crown.

He said: “Our track record of discipline and decision-making at the breakdown has been brilliant in the last 12 months.

“We rarely get penalised unnecessarily and the players have put a big emphasis on discipline.

“We want to scrummage properly, maul properly and correctly, without giving penalties away. If you are ill disciplined against Wales they have a pretty good goal kicker who tends to punish you.

“Emotion plays a big part in rugby, controlled emotion especially. It’s a game where commitment, intensity and all those factors play as big a part as game plans.

“You draw it from your identity, the crowd, the people you play for, your team-mates and the sense of working hard to be rewarded.

“But emotion that’s running out of control is not a healthy way to be and I will be telling them they have to be in the right place.”

Meanwhile Wales have been dealt a major blow with the loss of Luke Charteris due to a neck injury. He has been replaced by fellow English-born lock Jake Ball and Andrew Coombs have moved onto the bench.

England have received a similar scare over the fitness of Joe Launchbury, who took a limited part in training yesterday, but Lancaster insisted there are no concerns and a replacement has not been called into the squad.

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