England out to emulate All Blacks
February 1, 2013
Billy Twelvetrees reflects on his call-up for England's Six Nations opener against Scotland on Saturday%]
England boss Stuart Lancaster may have seen his side sweep world champions New Zealand aside in their most recent outing but he admits they still set the standard.
The All Blacks were beaten 38-21 at Twickenham last month in a stunning result that suggested England were ready to shake up the world order - but Lancaster is adamant that his side still have a lot to learn.
"It is important. To win consistently is important. That is what champion teams do," Lancaster told PA Sport. "Expectations have risen and this time last year people were looking at us as an unknown force. Now they know.
"The trick is to win consistently, even when you are the target. That is what the All Blacks do. That is what we have to strive towards. We have to be one step ahead, not one step behind."
England will look to kick on from their win over the All Blacks when they begin their Six Nations campaign against Scotland on Saturday. But they will have to do so without one of the key players in that famous triumph - centre Manu Tuilagi - who is sidelined with an ankle injury.
Uncapped Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees has been tasked with filling that void - in one of two changes announced by Lancaster on Thursday - and it is a challenge he is relishing.
"You have to back yourself and what you can add to the team - otherwise there is no point being there," Twelvetrees said. "I am very aware of Manu not being there but it is a great opportunity for me. Playing for England is a huge honour and I want to take every chance I am given.
"Players get their opportunities through injuries sometimes. I have to make the position my own. I have got to impose myself on the game and get my hands on the ball - otherwise there is no point being there. I want to show everyone what I can do. In a weird way I have always really enjoyed being nervous. You have to relish it. This is the biggest stage you can be on. I have always dreamed of it and I can't wait to run out."
Lancaster also has faith in a player who, despite his lack of Test match experience, he knows very well. "I coached him with the Saxons in the Churchill Cup and I could see then he had lots of potential and physicality," Lancaster said. "I have always wanted ball-players in the back line, as well as people who can carry as well as pace and physicality. Billy has the opportunity to demonstrate that he has all three. I have every confidence in him going into the game.
"Sometimes opportunities present themselves in different ways. We know Manu is going to be fit for next week and we hope Billy puts a marker down this week and gives us another headache."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
It was another bumper year of rugby action in 2014; join us as we take a look back at some of the season's top statistics
Salary caps, Saints, sinners and scrums - Monday Maul looks back at the key talking points from an eventful weekend
The latest Week in Pictures takes in a fiery East Midlands derby and all the action from the Aviva Premiership and Top 14