England's unwanted hero
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Scrumhalf Willi Heinz believes his Gloucester teammate Danny Cipriani played an influential role in propelling him into England’s World Cup squad.
Cipriani’s superb debut season at Kingsholm was recognised with two prestigious individual awards, yet it is his unheralded New Zealand-born halfback partner who will depart for Japan on September 8.
Heinz made his Test debut in Sunday’s victory over Wales and, having come from relative obscurity to supply cover to first choice Ben Youngs, he is grateful for Cipriani’s hand in his shock promotion.\
“The quality that Danny brought to Gloucester obviously helped all of us,” Heinz said.
“There were a number of guys who had really good seasons at Gloucester and probably the detail and the confidence he brought to our attack led to us standing out a bit more.
“Danny really helped my game and put a lot of pressure on me to deliver good ball for the team. He’s a really good thinker of the game and understands what it takes to perform at the highest level.”
Eddie Jones has gambled by naming only two scrumhalves in his 31-man squad, meaning that Heinz and Youngs will be involved in every game in Japan.
Providing emergency cover in the position is Leicester flyhalf George Ford, a prospect Sunday’s captain at Twickenham embraces.
“I will be confident to play there if needed. I hope Owen Farrell is demanding outside me – I’ll give him the ball!” Ford said.
“Under Eddie’s regime, I have trained there quite a bit to be honest, probably without me knowing it too much to be fair. There have been fallow weeks in the Six Nations where I have spent all week training at nine.
“And quite a lot sometimes to the point that I have thought, ‘am I being transformed into a scrum-half here?’ Game-wise it has only arisen a couple of times if there has been a yellow card or something.
“Based on the training I have done I have really enjoyed it. You are right in the thick of it and have to be very fit to keep up with play. Kicking, passing, it is pretty similar to number 10 apart from the fact that you are one closer in towards the ruck.
“I played a little bit of scrumhalf at school, and when I grew up playing rugby league I mixed between stand-off and dummy-half.
“It’s just trying to put the ball on a plate for the forwards, I suppose. Within this environment, we try to respond well to any situation. If you can adapt it’s a good place to be.”