Twelvetrees keeps England starting slot
Centre Billy Twelvetrees has kept his place in England’s starting team to face Ireland in Dublin tomorrow, with Manu Tuilagi named on a strong-looking replacements bench after recovering from an ankle injury.
Twelvetrees made an impressive try-scoring debut at inside centre in last week’s 38-18 victory over Scotland and with Brad Barritt at 13 key to organising England’s defence against the threat of Brian O’Driscoll, coach Stuart Lancaster opted to use Tuilagi as an impact substitute.
James Haskell was named at blindside flanker as Ben Morgan is out with a twisted ankle, while Tom Wood switched to number eight and Thomas Waldrom was called in to the replacements in the only other changes announced by coach Lancaster yesterday.
Tuilagi, man of the match in England’s stunning victory over world champions New Zealand two months ago, could wreak havoc from the bench on a tiring defence.
“A lot of the players performed very well and with Manu coming back into the equation it gave us some selection decisions,” Lancaster said in a statement yesterday.
“But with the centres playing well last week and Manu still returning to match fitness, having not played for the last four weeks, he and others will give us great options from the bench.”
Should England eventually settle on the Twelvetrees-Tuilagi partnership with Owen Farrell at flyhalf, their World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward will be a happy man after giving the trio a remarkable endorsement.
“One of the finest overseas midfield threes I’ve ever seen was the New Zealand trio in 2005 – Dan Carter, Aaron Mauger and Tana Umaga,” Woodward wrote in the Daily Mail.
“With a midfield of Owen Farrell, Billy Twelvetrees and a fit Manu Tuilagi, England are not a million miles from that.”
England have not won a Six Nations game away to Ireland for 10 years, their last victory coming under Woodward to complete their 2003 grand slam.
They did win in Dublin in a World Cup warm-up in 2011 though and also swept to an emphatic 30-9 victory in their last Six Nations meeting at Twickenham last March.
Round two fixtures
Today: 3.30pm. Scotland vs Italy; 6pm. France vs Wales.
Tomorrow: 4pm Ireland vs England.