Twelvetrees happy to be centre of attention

On paper it looks like a complete mismatch.

In the green corner, with well over 200 international caps for Ireland and the Lions, is the legendary centre pairing of Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy.

In the white corner is England’s midfield combo of Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell, with just 12 Test caps between them. Proud winners of the Calcutta Cup last week, but an international pairing still in its infancy.

But rather than being daunted by the prospect of facing an unbeaten Ireland side, with O’Driscoll and D’Arcy together at Twickenham for what is likely to be the last time, England’s new-look centre pair are rubbing their hands with anticipation.

“I can’t wait for it,” Gloucester centre Twelvetrees told O2. “What a great opportunity to play against the superstars in the Ireland team. You grow as a player when you get on the pitch.

“We’ll back ourselves to deal with the occasion. We’re not as experienced internationally, but there is huge confidence in the side.

“My second game was against them in the Six Nations last year. We were very aware of their class players and we dealt well with them well then.”

O’Driscoll and his partner D’Arcy – currently sporting a beard which would receive envious glances from Gandalf – will line-up for the 54th time together in midfield, a record for international rugby.

They both made their Irish debuts last millennium when Twelvetrees and Burrell were barely out of primary school.

The 35-year-old O’Driscoll, who has 130 caps for Ireland and worn the Lions jersey eight times, is playing in his final RBS 6 Nations tournament.

Twelvetrees got to know the player recently described as Ireland’s Benjamin Button during his time with the Lions in Australia last summer.

“I remember watching him as a youngster growing up,” added Twelvetrees, brilliantly nicknamed 36 by team-mates at former club Leicester courtesy of former Ireland full-back Geordan Murphy’s thick Irish accent.

“He’s been at the top his whole career and him and D’Arcy have been a massive threat over the years.

“I learned a lot from being on the Lions tour with him and I’m trying to use that at Gloucester and England.

“He is very calm in training and when playing the game. He has huge confidence, is such a talented guy and you don’t want to give him too much space to manipulate.

“He’s a world-class player. He showed it on the Lions tour and this season for Ireland. The things he is doing this year, he’s a huge threat for any defensive team. But you look forward to playing against the best players in the world.”

Twelvetrees has lined-up with the likes of Joel Tomkins, Brad Barritt and Jonathan Joseph in his year in international rugby.

He now finds himself the senior partner alongside Burrell, who scored a try on his debut against France in Paris and followed that up with another in the 20-0 win over Scotland.

“It’s been a good start,” added Twelvetrees. “The combination is working well between [fly-half] Owen [Farrell], myself and Luther.

“He’s done brilliantly, with two tries in two games. As a centre you have to read the game and the situation. We both like getting our hands on the ball and running through holes and help each other out.

“You want consistency as a player, so having combinations helps, so every minute playing on the pitch with the likes of Luther helps build confidence as a unit.

“Going forward if we want to be as good as we can, those combinations are key.”

Get behind-the-scenes news from Billy Twelvetrees and his England team-mates with Inside Line, the weekly show from O2 in partnership with England Rugby, at www.O2InsideLine.com