WILLI HEINZ thanked Danny Cipriani for helping him book a shock World Cup spot.
The Gloucester scrum-half came from absolutely nowhere to make Eddie Jones’ 31-man England party as the back-up to the 86-cap first-choice Ben Youngs.
And New Zealand-born veteran Heinz, 32, reckons fly-half Cips’ arrival at his club last season was a huge help.
Heinz said: “I think the quality Danny brought helped all of us.
“There were a number of guys that had really good seasons at Gloucester and 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.”
To help Heinz get up to speed before England fly to Tokyo on September 8, he has spent a lot of time with Leicester Tigers ace Youngs.
He added: “I really have been pinching myself — it all happened so quickly but when you have got a guy like Ben Youngs, I’ve been rooming with him for the last two or three weeks and he’s played 86 caps.
“What a perfect person to speak to and learn from and he’s so good at sharing those experiences, what to expect, what to do and not to do.”
Danny really helped my game and put a lot of pressure on me to deliver good ball for the team.
With Heinz the only back-up in the squad Jones is preparing fly-half George Ford as an emergency No 9.
Teams can replace players if they have a serious injury, with Saracens’ European and Premiership champion Ben Spencer on standby back home in England.
Stop-gap Ford revealed: “I will be confident to play there if needed.
“Under Eddie’s regime I’ve trained there quite a bit, 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 No 9 — quite a lot sometimes to the point that I have thought, ‘Am I being transformed into a scrum-half here?’.
“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 No apart from the fact that you’re one closer towards the ruck.
“I played a little bit of scrum-half at school — it’s just trying to put the ball on a plate for the forwards, I suppose.”
Saturday’s game against Wales, having beaten them 33-19 at Twickenham on Sunday, is a chance to give Ford a spin at No 9.
And the Tigers playmaker reckons it’s a chance for him to get stuck into his forwards.
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He added: “They don’t listen to me where I am now!
“One closer in might be a bit helpful for me, but obviously I’m good mates with people like Ben Youngs
and Willi’s been awesome since he came in.
“To see how they go about their stuff day-in, day-out and have a chat to them about those things would be great.”