ALEX Mitchell says his England chance has come as a result of ‘keeping his head up’.

The former Lymm Rugby Club scrum-half and Lymm High School student started at No9 as England got their World Cup campaign off to a winning start against Argentina at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille, France, on Saturday.

Yet Mitchell, 26, who plays his club rugby with Northampton Saints, was not even in Steve Borthwick’s 41-man training squad named in late June, an omission that enabled him to take a week’s holiday in Hvar in Croatia.

But the stars aligned for England’s most dangerous running nine when first-choice Jack van Poortvliet from Leicester Tigers went down with a tournament-ending ankle injury against Wales at Twickenham last month.

That presented Mitchell’s route back into the squad and when asked to start in an England senior shirt for the first time against Fiji in the final warm-up game to the tournament at Twickenham, he seized the opportunity by emerging as one of the few bright sparks in a shock home defeat – his nation’s fifth loss in six Tests.

Although Mitchell had appeared to be third-choice scrum-half behind veterans Danny Care and Ben Youngs going into the tournament, he got the call with the aim of bringing a misfiring attack to life.

“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster – out of the squad, then back in and then getting a shot against Argentina,” Mitchell said.

“I stayed fit and stayed ready and then got called to come in. I trained hard and tried to put my hand up again.

“I had one week off in Croatia, which was nice, just to reset the batteries. That was a couple of months ago now, so it was nice to get away and relax.

“I’m massively excited to be getting an opportunity to play and putting my hand up. It’s all been a bit weird but I’m excited.

“As a kid it’s a thing you dream of, playing at the top of the game, and the World Cup is that.

“To start the first World Cup game was a massive honour – my family are massively proud of me.”

Mitchell was a regular fixture in England training squads under Eddie Jones before being used as a dynamic replacement by Borthwick during the recent Six Nations, so it came as a shock when he was deemed surplus to requirements for the World Cup.

His patience has finally paid off.

“You appreciate you’re in a really good position. You’re still getting paid to play the sport you love and you are not far off,” he said.

“The whole time you’re not far off, you’re in and out of camp so you’re getting opportunities. You have just got to keep your head up and that’s what I focused on.”

England’s pre-match plans all but vanished when Tom Curry was sent off for a dangerous tackle in the third minute but Mitchell played his part in a resolute team display in which The Pumas were strangled, left frustrated and eventually kicked to death by Sale Sharks’ George Ford, the son of ex-Wire scrum-half Mike Ford who landed three drop-goals and six penalties in a 27-10 win.

In the 57 minutes Mitchell was on the field, his distribution was crisp and precise while his kicking in general play was just as England needed – his more dynamic running game had to be kept in the locker in the circumstances.

England move on to tackling Japan in their next Group D game in Lille on Sunday, but if called upon again Mitchell’s role will likely be the same as he had prepared for against Argentina.

“I’ve got to try and control the game, get the team to tick and when I can imprint some tempo into the side. I’ll try and do that, but stick to the game-plan,” he said.

“We know we’re a good side when we play well and stick to our style of play. The main thing is to do that and try to bring our X-Factor alive after that, if you can.”