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Heinz: Debut was amazing occasion

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Not since 1983 had a 32-year-old made an England debut, but old stager Willi Heinz revelled in his first run

Willi Heinz was delighted to become England’s oldest debutant since 1983. The 32-year-old Gloucester scrum-half made his debut in Sunday’s World Cup warm-up match at Twickenham, an appearance that gave him memories of a lifetime and a victory over Wales.

“It was an amazing occasion,” Heinz told RugbyPass. “Walking out before the game and just having a look around Twickenham.

“I have only played here a couple of times, so to just re-familiarise yourself with how big and how awesome it is, to come out and sing the anthem and listen to the crowd… I’ve been pretty nervous all week and to get into the game, that was what I was really after. It was awesome, a really special day.”

Heinz was helped to settle in by a strong display from England’s forward pack in attack and defence which paved the way for the 33-19 win. 

“They [the forwards] were fantastic. They really fronted up. We started pretty well. There were certain occasions where we lost momentum in the game, which is always going to happen against a quality opponent. 

“But I thought we were good at recognising what was working well for us and that was going back to set-piece – scrum, maul and lineout. The forwards were delivering in that area, so if it’s working why stop using it. They were immense.”

England’s previous home game saw them throw away a comfortable interval lead against Scotland. Not so this time around as they maintained enough focus to weather a Welsh resurgence just after half-time.

“It’s been a big focus for the group over the last six weeks. We’re also working hard on how we manage games and when we do lose momentum, not letting it be a massive problem.

“Understanding that there are going to be periods in the game when you are under pressure and maybe you just have to soak it up and absorb it for a while… I thought we did that.”

Heinz was partnered at half-back by George Ford, who captained the side in his 56th cap. “I thought George led the team brilliantly. He was really calm and clear, gave really good focus to the group when we needed it.”

Eddie Jones has kept everyone guessing with his seemingly inconsistent decisions over who is best to deputise for first-choice No9 Ben Youngs. Given his age, Sunday’s late recognition of the Christchurch-born Heinz wasn’t lost on the scrum-half.

“It’s really, really special. I know that’s a word that gets thrown around a lot but a day like this, at 32 I probably thought this opportunity was past me. 

“I guess I have tried to always work hard through my career and it has taken me a little bit longer than it takes other people, but just absolutely delighted. I feel honoured and privileged and grateful to the boys and to the coaching staff and management for giving me the opportunity.”

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Not since 1983 had a 32-year-old made an England debut, but old stager Willi Heinz revelled in his first run