Mature Dingwall ready to make big impression at Saints again

Fraser Dingwall
Fraser Dingwall

Fraser Dingwall has always seemed to be an old head on young shoulders.

The 20-year-old centre speaks so well it is easy to imagine that he is 10 years older and has 100 more games to his name.

Dingwall relishes leadership roles and he earned the right to skipper the England Under-20s in the World Rugby Under-20 Championship during the summer.

Now he is enjoying imparting some wisdom on his Saints team-mates, with many members of the club's current backs division younger and less experienced than himself.

"Our backs at the moment are incredibly young and in some ways I'm one of the more experienced backs, which is crazy considering I'm only 20 years old and only a third year," Dingwall said.

"On a personal note, it is good for me this year because I'm trying to kick on again.

"My injuries stopped me a bit last year and that was frustrating, especially because I felt I was going well at the time.

"I played against Clermont away in January and I felt I had one of my best performances of the year.

"I was given two weeks to rotate and rest before I went away with the England Under-20s and then I did my ankle in a 20s game (in Ireland).

"I came back and then did it properly again against Saracens at Allianz Park and had the op so I felt like I hadn't played properly for Saints for ages until this summer.

"It was frustrating to feel like I was playing well and for it then to be cut short."

But Dingwall has now put the injury frustrations behind him and is fully focused on getting back to the form earned him nine starts and three replacement appearances last season.

He has played a part in both of this season's Premiership Rugby Cup matches, starting as part of a back-line that had an average age of below 20 at Sale a couple of weeks ago.

And Dingwall now appears to be a fully-fledged member of the first team having truly emerged from the Academy during the early part of last season.

When asked whether he envisaged getting the amount of minutes he earned during the previous campaign, he said: "No, not really,"

"I was quite keen to get some first-team experience and I did want to break through.

"I set out a few goals, which I do every year, and one of them was to play for the first team, and I felt like that year was a good opportunity with new coaches coming in.

"But then to break through and get more regular game time was really pleasing."

Cambridge-born Dingwall has been a staple feature of the England Under-20s side in recent times but he is now too old to represent his country at that level.

That means he can set his sights entirely on cementing a starting spot at Saints.

And he said: "I'm too old for the 20s now so I've done my time so I'm fully into senior rugby now.

"There's no more age-grade for me, which is a little bit scary, but it's brilliant to be here and I'll do my first full pre-season next year."

So what has Dingwall been working on during recent weeks and months at Saints?

"Physically I'm not naturally gifted with being the biggest or the quickest so I'm always striving to improve in those areas, mainly in terms of strength and speed," he said.

"I'm not too bothered about weight and I don't want to put that on unnecessarily if I'm not strong enough to use it.

"I'm constantly trying to improve my attacking game.

"I wouldn't say I'm happy with my defensive game but it's one of my strengths so where I want to grow my game is on the attacking side and to be able to contribute to the team there."

With Dingwall a real leader in defence, it is easy to see him forming a formidable centre partnership with someone like Rory Hutchinson for many years to come.

And that is a suggestion Dingwall likes the sound of.

"Me and Hutch haven't actually played together too much - we've probably played four or five games," he said.

"But we do work really nicely together. He's a very skilful boy and that allows me to take a bit of a back seat in the attacking game.

"He's happy to have a large role in attack and I can complement him in defence, which is something I enjoy.

"So we do complement each other quite well."

Dingwall, Hutchinson and Co are now aiming to help Saints see off Saracens in a repeat of last season's Premiership Rugby Cup final at Franklin's Gardens on Sunday.

But the really serious game against the same opposition will come 13 days later at Allianz Park, where the Gallagher Premiership season will start for Saints.

"It's the start of the season and the Prem kicks off a bit later so the opening (Premiership Rugby Cup) games are being viewed a bit like pre-season matches," Dingwall explained.

"Now we're getting towards the latter stages of those games we're starting to ramp it up more and expecting better things from our performances.

"We hope to get better week on week, learn from our performances because we've actually got games to review.

"We want to have a really good run-out this weekend and to right some wrongs because we were frustrated about that Wasps game (Saints lost 36-32 last weekend).

"We could have done a job on them quite comprehensively but we'll go again on Sunday.

"Momentum and confidence are key and if you've got a couple of wins under your belt everyone clicks into the systems and has real belief.

"When things start to go wrong it can be easy to become fragmented but we've got good faith in what we're doing and we've got a very strong squad this year.

"Everyone's just really excited to get the Prem started now."