Rugby Union, by Martin Read –
Former Horsham, Pulborough and Sussex rugby star Billy Twelvetrees is part of England’s 33-man squad for the Six Nations tournament.
The uncapped 24-year-old centre, a former pupil at The Weald School, Billingshurst, was called up by England A (Saxons) in 2011 and has developed rapidly with Gloucester after joining the club from Leicester Tigers.
He said of his elevation to the senior elite player squad: “This is a great opportunity to show what I can do at the England training camp and I’ve got to push myself forwards.
“I’ve played a few Saxons games and I’ve really wanted the chance to step up. Now I’ve got the opportunity I’ve got to take it with both hands.
“I’ve got to make sure I do everything very positively, make sure I back myself and do what I do for Gloucester – that’s the most important thing. It’s just about getting my head down and doing things right on the training field.”
Born in Chichester and raised in Wisborough Green, Twelvetrees cut his rugby teeth at The Weald – along with older brothers Jonny, Joe and Matt, who still plays for Pulborough.
Local senior referee David Sainsbury, who coached at the school for many years, is delighted but not surprised by the former pupil’s impressive progress.
He told The District Post: “As a boy, you could give him a ball of any shape or size and he’d want to find out what he could do with it – how far he could throw it, kick it or pass it.
“Billy is a self-motivated player. With his talent and commitment, he could have excelled in other sports.
“He was a good all-round sportsman, relishing field athletics, sprinting and middle-distance running, always wanting to push himself to the limit in training, setting himself challenges and doing whatever it took to meet them.
“He got into The Weald 1st XV aged 11 and went on to captain the side. He would play for the school on a Wednesday, then travel to train with Leicester Lions before playing semi-professionally for them on Saturday and catching up with his studies at home on Sunday.
“I’m very, very pleased. He’s worked really hard at his game and thoroughly deserves to succeed.”
England backs coach Andy Farrell said: “He’s got talent across the board, with an ability to get over the gain line, take the ball up and be aggressive in defence.
“He’s developed massively and we’re interested to see if he can transfer that form from Gloucester to the international set-up.
“That’s what it’s all about – to be able to express yourself immediately and impress your team-mates in international rugby.”
England are preparing to start their Six Nations campaign against Scotland at Twickenham on February 2, with ex-Horsham player Joe Launchbury also in the squad.
Wasps star Launchbury last week made a surprise visit to his old school, Christ’s Hospital, thrilling Year 7 pupils by helping them prepare for their first match of the year.
The 21-year-old lock won his first cap against Fiji in November last year and went on to star against Australia, South Africa and New Zealand before Christmas.