Spencer jets in just in time for England

Eight years ago it was Stephen Donald, parachuted in at the last minute to lift the All Blacks to a famous World Cup win.

Eight years ago it was Stephen Donald, parachuted in at the last minute to lift the All Blacks to a famous World Cup win.

The All Black fly-half climbed off the bench to kick the winning penalty and cemented himself in rugby folklore.

England now hope Ben Spencer is ready to do the same.

The Saracens No.9 was in line to start against Leicester Tigers on Sunday at Welford Road before the severity of Willi Heinz’s hamstring injury became apparent.

Instead he has flown halfway around the globe to Japan with a bench spot for the World Cup final his for the taking.

With only three England caps to his name, all off the bench and still yet to taste victory, the 27-year-old does not exactly bring a wealth of experience.

But Jones has full confidence that the new man – who only arrived in Tokyo on Monday morning – is up to the task.

“Ben has been in and around the squad consistently for the last couple of years, he knows the game he knows the players, he is a fit guy, and just fits in quite readily,” he said.

“We always said to those guys that were outside the 31, that they needed to be ready and he is ready to go.”

There were positive injury updates on Owen Farrell, Kyle Sinckler and Jonny May ahead of Saturday’s massive final.

But this was always the danger of selecting only two scrum-halves in your original World Cup squad.

Jones knew the risks, and injury has struck down Heinz at the most inopportune moment.

But while Donald back in 2011 was so last-minute that the All Blacks could not find a jersey that fitted him – after a relaxing off-season fishing for whitebait – England are well-prepared.

Jones added: “He will definitely have a shirt that fits him, so that is the first difference.

“To my knowledge he hasn’t been whitebait fishing, so that is two significant differences.

“It is a great opportunity for the kid and he is excited about it.

“He has been around the team, we were just talking how he played SA in June 2018, so he comes in, fit and ready to do his job.”

The ecstasy for Spencer throws into sharper relief the agony for Heinz.

But the Gloucester No.9 is not going anywhere, and will stay with the group to get Spencer up to speed in time for Saturday against the Springboks.

“It’s tough for Willi, he has been a great contributor, a very well-liked member of the squad and he was in tears in the dressing room,” added Jones.

“It is tough for him but he has collected himself and he now knows he has got another role to play for us and he will fulfil that role for us this week.

“The great thing is Willi wanted to stay and we wanted him to stay.

“It was not a hard discussion. It is like if you want to get married. If the lady wants to marry you and you offer to get married, it is a pretty easy conversation.

“He is a great bloke, he works hard for the team. Ben and him have got a great relationship and even now he has already started to mentor Ben Spencer, he is a really great team man.”

The other forgotten man in that World Cup final is France scrum-half Jean-Marc Doussain, who came on, almost unbelievably, to make his international debut in that narrow loss to Donald’s All Blacks.

And while England will have everything crossed that Ben Youngs can get his side over the line against the Springboks, and ideally go the full 80, Spencer’s class is without question.

After all, this is the man who started both the Premiership and European finals for Sarries earlier this year as they claimed an historic double.

He is also a fantastic goalkicker, although whether he gets his Donald moment remains to be seen..

“It is just a great opportunity ahead of him, he has got to come into the squad and learn a few new things. Ben (Youngs) will help him with that,” added Jones.

“The task is no different from any other players, he just has just got to learn a bit more in the earlier part of the week and get himself mentally and physically ready.”