Billy Twelvetrees blooming under approving gaze of England coach Stuart Lancaster

England prepare to open Six Nations campaign against Scotland

Billy Twelvetrees: undeniably a great name for the son of – ahem – a tree surgeon. "I never really thought about it as being funny," confessed England's new centre, the man who may eventually solve the mysteries of the midfield universe after a decade of red-rose befuddlement. "But it is."

The 24-year-old Gloucester player's promotion to the national team for Saturday's Six Nations opener with Scotland reinforces two current facts of England life: that a regular starting place at Premiership level is a vital part of the career path, and that good deeds performed on Stuart Lancaster's watch rarely go unrewarded.

By moving from Leicester to Kingsholm at the end of last season, Twelvetrees found a way of putting himself in the public eye. By playing brilliantly for the second-string England Saxons in the 2011 Churchill Cup tournament, he imprinted himself on Lancaster's retina.

"I first coached Billy in that competition and it was easy to see his potential," the England coach said. "But you need to build consistency by playing regularly and Gloucester have given him the opportunity and helped him develop confidence.

"I think the turning point with him was being named in the Elite Player Squad last month. That was a big thing, because it allowed him to be himself. In the autumn, he was training with us as cover. Now, you can see a change in his body language, in the way he communicates and controls people around him. He feels comfortable."

Twelvetrees agreed wholeheartedly with all of that analysis. "Playing week in and week out in a very competitive Premiership will help any individual," he said, "and it's true that when I was named in the squad, it confirmed to me that I was worthy of playing rugby at this level. Being seen as one of the very best players in England? It's the stage you want to reach. And when we got together in camp, I thought: 'Right, this is the time to really nail it. There are no excuses now.'"

Although he has played a good deal of rugby in the outside-half position, Twelvetrees decided early that if he was going to make a name for himself, it would be in the inside centre role. And with good reason. A mad rugby scientist attempting to create union-playing life in some weird underground laboratory would struggle to come up with a better skill-set than the one naturally bestowed upon the new No 12.

Another of Twelvetrees' early decisions was to throw everything at playing rugby for his country. The catalyst? England's defeat on Grand Slam day in the inaugural Six Nations tournament, 13 years ago. Their conquerors on that occasion? That would be Scotland.

"I was playing myself the same afternoon, so I recorded the game and watched it later," he recalled of Scotland's 19-13 victory at Murrayfield in 2000. "I was devastated when England lost, absolutely gutted, and it's always been a memory for me. I decided then that my ambition was to play in a Six Nations match."

Name game: Mum's the word

By rights, it should be "Billy Fentiman" making his England debut on Saturday, not the Billy Twelvetrees that will be listed in the programme.

The name comes from the Gloucester centre's mother, Beverley, after his parents broke with tradition to share the wife's name. Billy's father, originally Kevin Fentiman, plies his trade as a tree surgeon in West Sussex, and hoped the surname would help business.

Suggested Topics
News
peopleHere's what Stephen Fry would say
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Sport
footballLive: All the latest from today's Premier League matches
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee