Twelvetrees ready to play giant slayer as England centre prepares to topple Roberts

By Luke Benedict

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Billy Twelvetrees is ready to put his body on the line to cut off the Welsh attack at source on Sunday — and that means stopping Jamie Roberts.

The Wales power game relies on their Lions battering ram running on to the ball but Twelvetrees is ready and  waiting for the biggest challenge of his Test career.

‘Jamie is a top-class player and he’s always making breaks and getting over the gain line,’ said Twelvetrees. ‘But you have to beat your opposite number — it is about the physical battle and winning the gain line.

Fronting up: Billy Twelvetrees us ready to step up his efforts in defence against Wales on Sunday

Fronting up: Billy Twelvetrees us ready to step up his efforts in defence against Wales on Sunday

Lions den: Giant centre Jamie Roberts stretches out before Wednesday's training session

Lions den: Giant centre Jamie Roberts stretches out before Wednesday's training session

'You get big guys running at you all day, so you have to put your body on the line.

‘Whichever team win the gain line and dominate the defensive line win the game. From our point of view it’s about hitting them low and stopping them going forward.’

Defence has not always been the English centre’s strength, and he was trampled over by Australia’s Matt Toomua for a try in November in what was, by his own admission, a ‘rubbish’ performance. But he has worked hard since.

‘You have to make your tackles and physically dominate the opposition,’ he added. ‘There’s a huge focus for me to get better at it.’

Last year, the 25-year-old watched helplessly from the bench as England’s Grand Slam ambition turned into a Welsh rout before he joined the action.

Winning ways: Dan Biggar, Jamie Roberts and Sam Warburton of Wales celebrate last year's Six Nations victory over England

Winning ways: Dan Biggar, Jamie Roberts and Sam Warburton of Wales celebrate last year's Six Nations victory over England

Holding firm: Billy Twelvetrees of England tackles Brian O'Driscoll of Ireland at Twickenham

Holding firm: Billy Twelvetrees of England tackles Brian O'Driscoll of Ireland at Twickenham

He has since trained with Roberts and Wales midfield partner Jonathan Davies during his low-key sojourn with Warren Gatland’s touring Lions last summer and believes that experience could be invaluable.

‘What struck me was how professional they were,’ he said. ‘On these tours you mix with guys and you want to learn off them. You pick up traits.’

The Gloucester playmaker is blessed with a bigger boot than Owen Farrell and is ready to take a long-distance pot-shot at goal if necessary.

‘I practise it as much as I can and to do it at Twickenham is a little bit extra special. If the captain calls it, I will happily do it.’

On the charge: Exeter Chiefs flanker Tom Johnson has been named on the bench following Billy Vunipola's injury

On the charge: Exeter Chiefs flanker Tom Johnson has been named on the bench following Billy Vunipola's injury

Danger man: Tuilagi, who's back after five months out, will not feature for England on Sunday

Danger man: Tuilagi, who's back after five months out, will not feature for England on Sunday

 

The comments below have not been moderated.

Roberts runs hot and cold. If he's on form all I can say is good luck because on form he is one hell of a force to stop. He's not a stepper but his running lines and power is second to none on his day.

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He does step, just not sideways haha. Big powerful bloke and does seem to get over the gain line a fair amount. Big threat which could draw in other players for 2 on 1 tackle. I know I would not fancy being Billy on Sunday but get your technique right and be brave all big men can be stopped!

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Jamie Roberts is a great player, but he's hardly a step merchant is he and he won't find a way through a solid English defence.

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Billy is more than up to the job of stopping Roberts.

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I'd have my doubts. If the Doc is on form Billy will get splattered

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