Northampton’s Dingwall ready to pick up where he left off
Injury abruptly ended his brilliant breakthrough season but now, back and fully fit, Northampton Saints centre Fraser Dingwall is a man looking to make up for lost time.
2018/19 was the season Dingwall had always dreamed of, making his Saints debut against Leicester Tigers at Twickenham in October before going on to register 12 further appearances and scoring key tries against Wasps, Exeter and Clermont Auvergne across the season.
He also shone in Gallagher Premiership Rugby and the Premiership Rugby Cup – signing his first senior contract with the club in November and, despite an ankle injury in March ruling him out for the rest of the domestic season, the 20-year-old is pleased with his progress to date.
“It was a really successful year on reflection,” he said. “There was a little bit of an up and down breaking into the first team to then having ankle surgery and being ruled out for the season but overall I was ahead of where I wanted to be.
“To get game time and to play in a successful season overall was really pleasing.”
This time next year, who are we talking about?
So much poise at the age of 20, how many years until he’s in a full England squad? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/nGuZrYHLSw
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) July 3, 2019
The challenge for Dingwall now will be to avoid second-season syndrome by replicating that form or even improving on it but he believes he is in the best environment to do so.
Northampton, after all, are a club on the way up having reached their first Gallagher Premiership Rugby Semi-Final since 2015 last year alongside winning the Premiership Rugby Cup.
Director of rugby Chris Boyd, who joined last August, and a new-look coaching team have so far quietly overseen a transformation in the side’s playing style and fortunes.
Back in the European Champions Cup once more, too, the Saints have a big year ahead of them as they look to keep their momentum going and Dingwall is relishing this test.
He added: “I’m really excited to be back. It feels like ages since I’ve played for the Saints and it actually has been. We’re going into the next block in pre-season where everyone is clicking into a bit more of a rugby focus because we have only got a month until the season kicks off.
“You can tell the excitement about the season is building already. We’ve got high aspirations, especially after last year where we probably scraped a fourth-place spot when we really could have cemented it during other games. I can’t wait to get started.
“Chris [Boyd] said to us last year that fourth was the minimum but he says he didn’t think anyone actually believed it. However now we’re in a place where we do actually believe it and we see how good we are and can be.
“On our day we feel we can beat anyone but the thing about Premiership Rugby is that it’s such a high level that you have got to turn up every week to give yourself a shot at winning it.”
Is he someone you can see exploding in the #GallagherPrem when we return??
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) June 18, 2019
Dingwall returns to Franklin’s Gardens off of the back of leading England at the World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Argentina.
England won four out of their five games but an opening loss to Ireland scuppered their title ambitions, as they finished fifth, yet Dingwall is confident the experience will stand him in good stead moving forward.
“I think that experience in Argentina has really helped me,” he added.
“To get five games after my injury before coming back has definitely boosted my confidence in my own playing ability and ankle, knowing its 100 per cent fit.
“The campaign was a bit frustrating – the whole squad will say we should have done better and to win four out of five games and come fifth is a little bit frustrating when the winners also won four out of five.
“On a personal note I was pleased with how I went and that’s set me up for a good pre-season and a chance to put my hand up for selection at the start of the year.
“I want to cement myself now but I’m realistic in that I’m 20 years old and there’s senior guys I can learn off and signings coming in that can offer me a lot of knowledge.
“I can bide my time and take my opportunities when they come. It’s not going to happen immediately.”