Billy Twelvetrees’ critics should prepare to be silenced, according to Gloucester backs coach Nick Walshe, who is tipping the much-maligned playmaker to be a smash-hit for England during the forthcoming autumn series.
Twelvetrees’ inclusion in England’s 33-man November squad has been questioned after an erratic start to his Premiership campaign, which culminated recently at Saracens with the concession of charge-down try to Chris Wyles.
But Walshe, who played alongside Twelvetrees during his Bedford days, believes there are extenuating circumstances and that England fans should have no concerns over the 25-year-old’s ability to rise to the big occasion.
Walshe told The Rugby Paper: “Billy’s done a hell of a lot of good things this season and it’s just little things that haven’t gone perfectly.
“The charge-down kick at Saracens was focused on but, actually, it was the perfect decision by him.
“It was just our execution that wasn’t quite right because the ball went through a forward’s hands to him which took an extra second.
“Unfortunately, people then say Billy’s not playing well, but he’s taken the pressure of Gloucester’s captaincy this season and it’s not been easy because he’s had to work his socks off to get all the boys together under new management.
“He’s had a lot on his plate but over the last few games he’s been relaxing more and really getting into the flow of his game.
“Against Saracens he had an excellent game and his work-rate and leadership have been phenomenal.
“People point to small errors but when you analyse his performances closely, as I do, he’s very important to Gloucester and he’s building nicely towards the autumn series with England.
“Maybe he was trying too hard because of the captaincy, but we’re seeing him flourish now and I hope Stuart Lancaster trusts him because he gives you what others don’t, which is good distribution and an excellent running game.”
While Twelvetrees prepares to join Gloucester colleagues Ben Morgan and Jonny May at this week’s England training, Walshe feels in-form winger Charlie Sharples was unlucky to miss out.
He said: “Jonny’s electric and deserves to be in the EPS, and I hope he starts against New Zealand, but I don’t know why Charlie’s not in the squad.
“Charlie’s been just as good as Jonny and I’d love to see him back in the fold because there’s not a better winger in the country chasing high balls and his defence is very sound.
“He’s a finisher, too, and I hope Stuart’s still looking at him.”
Walshe, meanwhile, is targeting consistent top four Premiership finishes for Gloucester following his summer switch from England’s U20s.
The Cherry & Whites lie sixth after the opening half-dozen games and Walshe declares: “Gloucester’s definitely a sleeping giant. There’s huge potential here and our job is to be as consistent as the Leicesters and Northamptons.
“When you look at the stadium and fanbase here, we have to deliver on the pitch to back up that support and we’re all desperate for success.
“It’s been a challenging three months with a new coaching team and players, but we’re pleased with the progress and top four would be a dream.
“We’re still in transition and can’t get ahead of ourselves, but the ambition and expectation has to be for regular top four finishes.”
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