Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Eddie Jones should take a closer look at Billy Twelvetrees, says Johan Ackermann

Danny Cipriani may be stealing the headlines at Gloucester, but it is the main outside him who is the “unsung hero” of the Cherry and Whites’ strong start to the campaign.

Billy Twelvetrees has been Gloucester’s lynch-pin in the Premiership so far, according to boss Johan Ackermann.

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Now Gloucester head coach Ackermann is urging England supremo Eddie Jones to take a closer look at Twelvetrees ahead of the World Cup.

Twelvetrees has been slotting his kicks so far this term, as well as being the level-headed foil to Cipriani’s audacious plays.

Twelvetrees, who picked up the last of his 22 caps in 2015, impressed again on Friday in Gloucester’s five-try to win over Bristol, with Jones looking on.


“Billy is the side’s unsung hero at the moment,” Ackermann told me. “He is consistently one of our senior guys who works extremely hard during the week.

“He is very calm, shows good leadership and is extremely fit. His work-rate is tremendous on the field and I don’t always think he gets that recognition.

“He organises a lot in defence and works a lot off the ball. He is really working well with Danny on his inside and he’s really doing well for us at this stage.

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“He’s always so professional. He’s always one of the guys who really looks after himself and always one of the last to walk out of the club. It’s very good to have him in our system.”

England boss Jones opted for Owen Farrell, Henry Slade, Piers Francis and Alex Lozowski as his potential inside centres in his August pre-season camp, but Ackermann ardently believes Twelvetrees is worth another look.


Twelvetrees, 29, is filling in at the first-receiver role at times for Gloucester, with Cipriani on occasion being used as a decoy.

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“It’s a difficult one. Obviously, I’ll always lean towards the guys that I coach and I do believe Billy’s got the talent and the ability,” says Ackermann.

“But as I’ve said with other players, Eddie has worked with a squad now for two or three years and he’s going to believe in certain guys. For there to be change, only Eddie can do it.

“We’re happy with the way Billy has performed and developed his game in the last year and hopefully it will keep on going.”

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Aled Brew on the talent of Joe Cokanasiga, the wisdom of Jamie Roberts, and targeting silverware at Bath Rugby

Aled Brew was Bath’s Players’ Player of the Year last season and chalked up more minutes on the field than any other player, but the modest winger expects to fulfil little more than a cameo this term.

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The Welshman, 32, believes newly-arrived youngster Joe Cokanasiga and fit-again Semesa Rokoduguni will be the first-choice wingers at The Rec.

And while he will still be out to pinch the shirt off their backs, he says he is being “real with himself” and not expecting to have the amount of game time he had last campaign.

England Under-20 star Cokanasiga has joined Bath from London Irish on a three-year deal, while England wing Rokoduguni is back from shoulder surgery.

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“When you’ve got young boys like Joe coming through, you’ve got to expect that he’s going to have a good crack,” said Brew.
“He’s the future and I’m coming to the latter end of my career now. You’ve got to understand that.
“I’ll be here pushing Joe and pushing Roko but you’ve got to have the understanding and be real with yourself that they’re going to be playing the majority if they’re playing well.
“With Roko back, Joe here, Jack Wilson and Cooper Vuna, we’ve a lot of wingers. We’re training hard and pushing each other on the field. It’s good to have that rivalry but we know that the team comes first.

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“If they don’t then I’ll have to take my chance and try and hold on to my spot.

“I’m happy in my position. I don’t expect to be playing week in week out like I did last year, but I just want the team to do well and get some silverware.

“Last season went really well for me, and I didn’t expect to play as much rugby as I did. It was a long season for me and I coped with it pretty well. But you’ve got to be realistic at 32.”

Brew, who has nine international caps, said the impact of fellow Wales international Jamie Roberts on the squad had been immediate and forceful.

“I’ve known Jamie for years and he’s not shy, he’s a confident bloke,” Brew said. “He’s definitely brought a lot of experience and a no-nonsense character as well.

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“Out on the field if something’s not good enough he’s expressing it and telling the boys.

“He’s training hard and he’s definitely a good role model for people to see. Everyone knows how successful he’s been and is. Even though he’s hit those heights he’s still cracking on to perfect himself.

“He’s the first to rehab and after training he’s doing extras.

“When the Academy boys see him do all those things, they think ‘These are the standards it’s going to take’."

The original version of this article first appeared in The Rugby Paper.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Gloucester full-back Jason Woodward presses case for England place

My thoughts for The Times on Gloucester's European Challenge Cup semi-final win over Newcastle Falcons.

He threw a couple of rash early passes, but after that it was a supremely eye-catching display by Gloucester full-back Jason Woodward, whose pace onto the ball, lines of running and off-loading dexterity were all top class.

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With Bath's Anthony Watson sidelined for six months by a torn Achilles sustained against Ireland in the Six Nations, the door is surely now more than ajar for New Zealand-born Woodward to tour South Africa with England this summer, not least because his attacking mentality is similar to Watson's.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

James Simpson-Daniel: Johan Ackermann has turned Gloucester pack around

James Simpson-Daniel believes European Champions Cup rugby next season is within Gloucester's reach - but claims a top-four finish is likely to be beyond the club.

Former Gloucester wing Simpson-Daniel believes new head coach Johan Ackermann is giving the Cherry and Whites' pack more bite, but says they remain a little short in depth in the outside backs.

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“Johan inherited a side that’s been coming in the bottom three for the last few seasons, but Ed Slater has been a great signing and that doggedness up front has won them games," said Simpson-Daniel.

“Ackermann’s judgement has been spot on. He’s focusing on building a bigger, nastier pack.

“It’s a shame Ross Moriarty is leaving but Ruan Ackermann is very similar to Ross, and the good thing is Johan is using youngsters like Jake Polledri and keeping them in the team to reward them for their good performances.”

‘Sinbad’ now believes that European Champions Cup rugby is within Gloucester’s sights.

“A side finishing in the top six is structured around winning at home and picking up some points on the road, and I think that is happening,” said Simpson-Daniel.

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“As for top four, no, I don’t think Gloucester are title contenders yet.”

Since Jonny May’s departure to Leicester on the eve of the new season, Simpson-Daniel believes Gloucester have been light at wing - a situation that has not been helped by recent shoulder injuries to Ollie Thorley and Henry Purdy.

“It’s an area where Gloucester are less strong,” said Simpson-Daniel. “It’s an understatement to say that when Jonny decided to leave it wasn’t ideal timing.

“Gloucester were left behind in strength and depth in that position."

James Simpson Daniel was playing at the PokerStars Festival London. Join the world's most popular online poker sites at PokerStars and visit BetStars News for a full Six Nations preview.