Rugby Union, by Martin Read –
When Billy Twelvetrees played rugby for Pulborough and then Horsham he was always the one the opposition had to stop.
It was the same at Twickenham on Saturday when, in a scintillating debut, he scored a try (pictured) as England beat Scotland 38-18 in front of a passionate full house.
Twelvetrees said: “I didn’t want to let anyone down and it’s a relief that I didn’t do that.”
The Gloucester centre need not have worried on that score. He saw plenty of the ball, earning fulsome praise in the media and from England head coach Stuart Lancaster.
Another former Horsham player, Joe Launchbury, unluckily had a try disallowed and also won plaudits, while Joe Marler’s appearance amazingly meant there were three Sussex players in the national team.
Twelvetrees’ former coach at The Weald School, Billingshurst, was in the crowd with Billy’s brothers Jonny, Joe and Matt, who still plays for Pulborough.
David Sainsbury told The District Post: “There was a tremendous atmosphere with about 30 in our party, including a number of former Weald players.
“This was such a big game and naturally we were a little nervous, but after a few minutes it was plain to see that Billy was at home and he treated us to an absolutely fantastic display.”
Sitting nearby were Twelvetrees’ contented parents, long-term Wisborough Green residents Kevin and Beverley.
Mum encouraged him to play rugby at an early age to let off steam while Dad was competing in motocross events. He also excelled at football and cricket, a good enough batsman to clear Wisborough Green’s pavilion with a mighty six.
After hosting a joyous post-match family celebration, elated Beverley told us: “We had a wonderful time at Twickenham and Billy came down to see us next day.
“He’s worked so hard and we’re all tremendously proud of him, but this is just a start. Of course we hope he’ll get selected for the game in Dublin (on Sunday), but we need to take things one step at a time and mustn’t count our chickens.
“It’s been an incredible few days, but now we’ve got to come back down to earth and get back to work!”
When they got married, Kevin took Beverley’s maiden name – Twelvetrees being ideal for a tree surgeon.
On his website, Kevin says: “I am against the mass production of the same-looking ‘jelly mould’ shapes in all our towns, cities, villages and countryside.”
The same spirit is manifested in Billy’s play – flexible, forthright and sincere. And maintaining the arboreal theme, appropriately his early rugby role model was Will Greenwood.
Twelvetrees’ meteoric but smooth transition into the England side came as no surprise to Horsham Rugby Club coach Richard Ordidge, whose son Jonny is among former colt team-mates who now play for Horsham’s 1st XV.
Ordidge said: “Billy used to play for Pulborough, but the U10 age group team at that time folded and he came to Horsham. He stayed with us right up to U16 when he moved to higher-league Haywards Heath to further develop his game.
“When coaching Billy I could see right from the start that he was going to be a phenomenal player. He had star quality, taking the game to the opposition, tackling hard, side-stepping and never holding back.
“When Horsham beat Brighton to win the U11 Sussex Cup, Billy scored four tries out of five. He constantly made things happen and was head and shoulders above the others.”
Nicknamed ‘36’ at Leicester Tigers, as his name sounded like ‘12 threes’ when pronounced by Irish team-mate Geordan Murphy, Billy faces competition from Manu Tuilagi but merits further selection for his country.
Following his superb performance against Scotland, the TV lounges at Horsham and Pulborough rugby clubs should continue to be packed with enthusiastic supporters urging their former star to further glory.
Photo by Chris Radburn/PA Wire.