Rugby Union: Twelvetrees and Barritt win the right to face the Irish

England's Billy Twelvetrees in action. PIC: PA
England's Billy Twelvetrees in action. PIC: PA
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England head coach Stuart Lancaster admitted the impressive form of Billy Twelvetrees and Brad Barritt had contributed to his decision to start fit-again centre Manu Tuilagi on the bench against Ireland in Dublin on Sunday.

Twelvetrees impressed on his RBS 6 Nations debut in the 38-18 win against Scotland last weekend when Tuilagi was sidelined by an ankle injury.

And Lancaster believes using Tuilagi as an impact player from the bench offers England their best chance of beating the Irish.

“The decision was made for me on Tuesday,” Lancaster said. “Manu was injured on January 13 and his first onfield rugby session was Tuesday.

“To play a full 80 minutes against Ireland after that would be difficult for any player.

“I looked at the best way to give the team the best chance to win on Sunday and went with Manu off the bench. I’m sure he will be a handful.

“It (the decision) also says a lot about the performances by Billy and Brad last week as well.

“Billy was quietly pleased with his debut although he doesn’t shout it from the rooftops.

“He gives us another dimension to our attacking game and deserves to keep his place.

“Brad has been outstandingly consistent and had another good game for us at the weekend.”

“When you weigh the situation up, when you look at what they (Twelvetrees and Barritt) have done and what Manu had not done then that was what led to the decision.”

Lancaster clearly has no qualms about starting with 24-year-old Twelvetrees in Dublin in only his second match for England.

“Experience counts for something but it doesn’t count for everything for me,” he said.

“There is lots of quality that we’ve got that we can bring on in the second half.

“Dylan (Hartley) was close, as was Danny Care and Courtney Laws. But Joe Launchbury and Tom Youngs both had strong games against Scotland. We have got to reward the players who are playing well.

“It’s a good message to players that you have to earn the right to get back in the team. It doesn’t matter who you are.”

Wasps flanker James Haskell will make his first Six Nations start in nearly two years at blindside flanker in a reshuffled back row, with Tom Wood switching to number eight in place of the injured Ben Morgan.

Tuilagi takes over on the bench from wing David Strettle, while Thomas Waldrom fills the back row slot.

Haskell’s last Six Nations start was also in Dublin, when England won the title but saw their 2011 Grand Slam ambitions destroyed with a 24-8 defeat.

The 27-year-old opted out of last year’s championship in order to play club rugby in Japan and then in New Zealand but he has worked his way back into Lancaster’s plans.

Morgan was one of England’s most influential players against Scotland but he limped off after 45 minutes with a sprained ankle and Haskell picked up the baton, winning four turnovers in the space of 35 minutes.

Sale prop Henry Thomas will travel to Dublin to provide cover at tighthead prop.

England have not won a Six Nations game in Ireland for 10 years. Their last tournament victory in Dublin secured a Grand Slam in 2003, the year England also won the World Cup.

England: Goode; Ashton, Barritt, Twelvetrees, Brown; Farrell, B Youngs; Marler, T Youngs, Cole, Launchbury, Parling, Haskell, Robshaw, Wood. Replacements: Hartley, Wilson, Vunipola, Lawes, Waldrom, Care, Flood, Tuilagi.

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