Former Cambridge Rugby Club star Fraser Dingwall to captain England at the 2019 World Rugby Under-20 Championship
Fraser Dingwall has experienced the extremes of life as a professional sportsman this year.
In his second season in the senior academy at Northampton Saints, it could hardly have gone any better - to a point.
The 20-year-old made his Saints first-team debut in October at Twickenham, appearing for five minutes against Leicester Tigers in the match to raise proceeds for retired former team-mate Rob Horne.
Dingwall caught the eye in the Premiership Cup and, before long, had his first try for the first team, breaking from halfway to touch down in a 36-17 win over Wasps.
There was seemingly no stopping his progression as more tries and matches for the first team followed, and he was then given the honour of captaining England under-20s against Ireland in the Six Nations Championships.
“I’ve managed to get a fair bit of senior rugby and first-team appearances, kind of through injury which opened up a bit of a door,” said a modest Dingwall.
“I was really happy with the games I’ve played.
“The occasion [of his debut] was special, it was a cool day to do it, definitely.
“First try against Wasps on my first Premiership start - I had a nice little run in from halfway so it was one I will remember.
“To be selected as captain for the Ireland game was also pretty cool, especially as there were a fair few of us that had played the year before so it wasn’t necessarily an obvious choice I didn’t think.
“It was definitely an honour.”
However, as Dingwall skippered his nation for the first time in February, it was to lead to the other side of the game.
He suffered an ankle injury against Ireland and, having attempted a comeback for Saints against Saracens in March, it ended up requiring surgery that ruled him out for nine weeks.
“I’ve just had this ankle injury which has tarnished it a little bit, so it’s quite easy to forget what had been before that,” said Dingwall.
“I’ve been out for nine weeks. I rehabbed it for four weeks, played against Saracens away and then aggravated it again so I had surgery a few days after that.
“It’s been a couple of months and I was back full training a couple of weeks ago.
“As the game goes, as I get injured another opportunity arises for another player and we’ve seen the breakthrough of Hutch (former Shelford player Rory Hutchinson). He is playing really well and into the Scotland squad now.
“It’s just the way rugby goes, I came in through an injury and Hutch gets given an opportunity when I’m not available.”
But, he added: “When you reflect on the whole season it has been very good. It’s quite easy to lose you’re point of view when you’re in the moment, but as a second year I’m very happy with how it’s good.
“And I’ve got this world cup which is nice to know my season isn’t done.”
Dingwall is one of the more experienced players in the 29-strong England squad for the 2019 World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Argentina.
In 2018, they were beaten 33-25 in the final by a very good France side, but return this year with a squad that has plenty of Premiership minutes under their belts.
“There’s a good group of us that went through the whole campaign last year and that group is really adding to the squad this year and passing on a lot of experience of what to expect,” said Dingwall.
“Hopefully we can better the loss of the final which, to be fair, was to a very strong French side.
“We’re really excited to get out there. It’s a very talented squad.
“We haven’t been able to spend much time together because a lot of boys have been involved with their clubs playing Premiership rugby so a lot of the boys have been exposed to a higher level.
“I don’t think any country will have the amount of boys that have played first-team rugby - Premiership or top league they have - and that is something we will have in our favour.
“It is really exciting. Training has been going well this week so we’re excited to get out there and into our first game against Ireland.”
Dingwall is joined in the squad by fellow Saint and Cambridge-based Alex Coles, and they continue an impressive roll call of players from the city to have received international honours.
“It’s very cool for Cambridge, and we’re doing very well at the moment with Alex Goode getting European player of the year,” said Dingwall.
“There are several players that have come through like Will Hooley, who played a lot at Saints and Exeter, and is now playing for the US, and Ben Spencer.
“Cambridge has got a lot of strength to its mini and youth, and then its senior and it’s a really good platform that has allowed a lot of boys to kick on.”