Young gun Fraser Dingwall out to shine for England under-20s
Former Cambridge mini and youth player set for Six Nations Championship
Glimpses into England’s future were provided when Eddie Jones named his squad for this season’s NatWest 6 Nations Championship.
It featured eight uncapped players, but perhaps most interestingly included 18-year-old Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith, who was marked as an apprentice.
While the inclusion of Smith in the squad may not hold too much wider significance, it illustrates that Jones is prepared to build for the years ahead.
And one of those players that may be hoping to reap the rewards in the future is Fraser Dingwall.
The 18-year-old former Cambridge mini and youth player has been named alongside Smith in the England under-20s squad for their Six Nations Championship.
It is another sign of the progression of the Northampton Saints youngster, who was on tour with England under-18s in South Africa last summer.
But that was not his first taste of international age group rugby, as prior to that he had been within the Scotland system.
“When I initially started I was always just looking to play the highest level of rugby that I could, and at that point it was with the England 18s rather than Scotland,” he said.
“But at 16s, I choose Scotland because there was the opportunity to play at the highest level of rugby; at this age I don’t think it matters too much about which nationality you’re going to tie down to.
“I have spoken with my dad, who is the Scot, and he is just very supportive. It’s about opportunities and I’m very grateful for the ones I’ve achieved.”
Dingwall is in the senior academy at Franklin’s Gardens, having been with the Saints since he was 13.
He went to Bedford School for four years and so was part of the Elite Player Development Group through the junior academy into the under-18s.
“I was fortunate enough to be offered a contract last March time, so it’s been a long time with them,” said Dingwall.
“I have settled really well as the whole squad was welcoming. It’s time to kick on now and keep learning from others, and develop as best as I can.
“They’ve got some really good influential players there, especially for me someone like Rob Horne. As a No 13, or a centre at least, I can learn a lot off him from his experience from Super League to the highest level international rugby playing against the Lions.
“So he is someone I’m very much looking up to.”
In his first year in senior rugby, Dingwall is experiencing the rigours of National League One with Coventry.
He was originally destined to return to Cambridge on a youth loan, but, having trained with the club, an 11th hour approach to the Saints from former Cambridge director of rugby Rowland Winter took him to the ambitious Midlands outfit.
“I’ve really enjoyed it there,” said Dingwall. “It’s nice winning each week and there are some really good players there as well; Sammy Tuitupou has played 11 times for the All Blacks.
“So it’s been good to go to National One in my first year and get quite regular game time.
“The best and easiest way to learn and improve is through game time so that’s been pretty pivotal this season so far.
“I’m just looking forward to playing some more with them and hopefully if they go up, next year see if we can maintain the relationship. But with loan clubs it can switch around.”
So with Northampton, Coventry and England under-20s, there is exposure to different styles of rugby for Dingwall.
“Nick Walshe at Coventry is the head coach and he did the England under-20s about three years ago,” he said.
“I really like his style in terms of our dominance up front but then intent when the opportunities arrive in the back-line.
“And that’s similar to the Saints, who are always trying to be dominant up front and be attacking when it comes to the back-line, so there really are some mutual trends between the two.
“They are two slightly opposing styles, but also crossover which is really helpful.”
Dingwall is one of the few first years in the under-20 group, so would be eligible to play again next year, and it means there is a breadth of experience to the squad which should stand England in good stead for the campaign.
The strong core will also help drive through some of the less experienced players to push for glory and on to the Junior World Cup in the summer.
“I was very happy and very honoured but it wasn’t a main focus,” said Dingwall of his call-up.
“It was always something I went into the season with as a goal but I always knew that if I just got my head down and worked hard at Coventry and the Saints then the opportunity may arise.
“But I didn’t expect it or prioritise it, I just want to be the best player I can at this time.
“I feel I want to use the opportunity to get as much as I can from it, especially in my first year.”
Development may be the primary focus for Dingwall in the short-term, but if he continues on the current path then longer term he maybe looking to follow in the footsteps of some fellow former Cambridge mini and youth players.
“We had people that had gone through like Will Hooley, who has just been selected for the USA, and Alex Goode, who is another big name, with England,” he said.
“There were always these people at Cambridge to look up to, but I think I was always trying to just push through.
“Because I was in the academy for so long it was always the end goal to get that contract, it wasn’t the do or die as such, I wasn’t going into it and panicking in each session because of it; I was just trying to learn.”
Dingwall’s campaign with England under-20s starts this Friday (February 2) away to Italy.