Jack van Poortvliet will enter World Cup year inspired by a talk from Martin Johnson that will fuel his drive to become England’s first choice scrum-half.
Van Poortvliet had made the position his own by the end of the July tour to Australia and ended the series by replacing underperforming veteran Danny Care in the first half of the Sydney decider.
But with Ben Youngs and Raffi Quirke available once more for an autumn that opens against Argentina on November 6, the 21-year-old rookie – who plays with the calm of a seasoned campaigner – faces a battle to retain the jersey.
A breakthrough year for Van Poortvliet included hearing Leicester great and England’s 2003 World Cup-winning captain Johnson speak to a group of 10 emerging Tigers.
“Everyone’s dream as a young player would be to play for England and ultimately, once you have played for England, you want to win the World Cup for England,” Van Poortvliet said.
“Johnno is a very, very impressive individual and the way he speaks about his time as a player and his influence was extremely inspiring. I will remember some of the things he said for a very long time
“He got a few smiles when he told a some old stories. It was a good day to have a chat to him.
“He spoke about how amazing that whole experience was of winning that World Cup. That just makes the taste for it grow even more.
“That is the ultimate goal for this squad – to win a World Cup. But we haven’t got many games until the World Cup so we have got to make sure we make the most of every game leading up to it and make sure we get better.
“I remember coming out of the talk extremely inspired. One thing I really took from it was that he never missed a session. He was on it all the time.
“It was a big thing we took as young players – if you want to improve you have got to be on it and focused in every session you do on the field.”
While the man in possession of the scrum-half jersey, Van Poortvliet faces fierce competition from Youngs and Quirke for the opener against the resurgent Pumas.
Even after helping to rescue England from their dismal start in Sydney, he was given a stark reminder by Eddie Jones of the selection landscape.
“The big message Eddie had for me was you can’t take it easy now, you have got to keep pushing,” he said.
“He was big on it always being harder the second time around and to keep your spot, so keep pushing and keep improving.”