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.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Suggested Topics
News
FIFA President Sepp Blatter reacts during a news conference in Zurich June 1, 2011
news
News
people
Life and Style
food + drink
News
peopleKatie Hopkins criticises River Island's 'seize the day' bags for trying to normalise epilepsy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family
film'I survived it, but I’ll never be the same,' says Arash Amel
Life and Style
Retailers should make good any consumer goods problems that occur within two years
tech(and what to do if you receive it)
Life and Style
healthIf one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
Life and Style
tech
News
i100
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

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

Hanging with the Hoff

Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith