Winning weekend for Saints stars in the Guinness Six Nations

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It was a winning start to their England careers for Fraser Dingwall and Fin Smith as the Saints stars helped to secure a 27-24 win against Italy in Rome on Saturday.

Dingwall played the full 80 minutes at centre, while Smith came off the bench in the final 15 minutes of the Guinness Six Nations opener.

Further Saints representation came in the form of Tommy Freeman, who shone on the wing, Alex Coles, who came off the bench late on, and Alex Mitchell, who scored a crucial try.

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It was a strong showing from the Northampton men as they helped to propel the Red Rose to a welcome win ahead of Saturday's clash with Wales at Twickenham.

And it was a particularly memorable day for debutants Dingwall and Smith.

"It’s a special day for all five (England debutants) and a special day for me to be involved with them at the start of their England careers,” said England boss Steve Borthwick.

“Just chatting to them in the changing rooms, they are going to be wearing the England shirt for a long time.

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“For Fraser (Dingwall) in the centres, when you have got a different combination – and this is one of the challenges of playing in the centre, having never played with that 10 and that 13 before – I thought he did really well to help glue that combination together.

Alex Mitchell scored a crucial try for England (photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images)Alex Mitchell scored a crucial try for England (photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images)
Alex Mitchell scored a crucial try for England (photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images)

“The ball movement improved a lot. The midfield showed that they can move these balls to the edges a lot and there was some improved areas we felt we had signs of an advantage but we weren’t playing to those areas enough.

“So I asked the players to place greater emphasis on those areas and with Jamie George’s leadership everyone did. That then led to that third quarter being very strong for us.

“This group is so keen to run hard and train hard. That has been like every day.

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"It has been a pleasure to coach this group and they are going to improve fast because they are so keen to learn.

"We’ll learn fast from this game.”

Mitchell popped up with a trademark try during the second half to help England take control.

It was a typically inventive score from the Saints scrum-half, who overcame an infected leg wound to take his place at nine.

“I'm very pleased with the result and very pleased with the players," Borthwick said. "They found a way to change the game at the mid-point of the game and found a way to get a result.

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“There were areas that we improved upon from where we have been and were trying to work on in the preparation period that we had.

"It was brilliant to see five players make their debut for England in one matchday in the Six Nations, which doesn’t happen very often.

“Having said that, there were plenty of areas we need to be better at. We gave Italy scores too easily and we need to improve our defence.

“In that first half, while we had lots of possession in the attacking half and the speed of our ball was much quicker and the ball movement was improved, we didn’t break the line as much as we wanted to.”

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Elsewhere, there was another Saints debutant on the international stage as tighthead prop Elliot Millar Mills came off the bench to help Scotland secure a 27-26 win against Wales in Cardiff.

And on Friday night, a young Saint stole the show as Henry Pollock picked up a hat-trick on his England Under-20s debut.

Pollock was named man of the match as England beat Italy 36-11 in their Under-20s Six Nations opener in Treviso.

Hooker Craig Wright and winger Toby Cousins also started for the Red Rose.