Dingwall ready to kick on after returning to training at Saints

Fraser Dingwall scored a key try in a win against Exeter last December
Fraser Dingwall scored a key try in a win against Exeter last December

Fraser Dingwall returned to training at Saints this week - and the promising centre is now ready to put his hand up for more game time in the season ahead.

The 20-year-old enjoyed a superb breakthrough campaign in 2018/19, making 12 appearances and scoring key tries against Wasps (twice), Exeter and Clermont Auvergne.

He spent some of the summer skippering England Under-20s in the World Rugby U20 Championship in Argentina.

And after a well-earned break, during which he went interrailing in Europe, Dingwall is now back at Franklin's Gardens and ready to push on again.

"We (Saints' England Under-20 players) were pretty lucky that we missed the whole first four weeks (of pre-season) and we avoided that horror," Dingwall said.

"Everyone's starting to click in a bit more to rugby and we're trying to tighten more screws there rather than smashing our conditioning.

"It is only a month until the season kicks off and I think everyone's really excited for that.

"The most positive thing for me (about playing for England Under-20s in Argentina) was just to get back into playing some rugby after getting my ankle injury.

"I was pretty pleased with how I went so it set me up to go and have a good pre-season and put my hand up again for this year."

Dingwall was unlucky with injuries towards the end of last season, suffering two ankle problems that stopped him having a say in Saints' Gallagher Premiership title push.

Both injuries came while playing on artificial surfaces as he picked up a problem playing for England's youngsters in Cork and then another playing for Saints at Saracens in March.

"I do think 4Gs have an involvement in a fair few injuries," Dingwall said.

"I did my ankle four weeks before I did it at Saracens on a 4G pitch so I'm not sure if there's a correlation but it does seem whenever I play someone does seem to hurt their ankle or knee on a 4G pitch.

"I'm not the biggest fan of them.

"But I've played on one since in Argentina so I've got over my fear!"

Things didn't go to plan for England Under-20s in South America as a defeat to Ireland meant they failed to make it past the group stage.

They did eventually claim revenge, defeating the Irish later in the tournament, but Dingwall admits it was a disappointing campaign.

"It was a little bit frustrating overall because we all felt we could have done slightly better but to come home with four wins from five games was alright," he said.

"It was cool to captain the lads because I haven't done it for a while and I took a lot of learnings from it, in terms of managing people.

"I was the immediate link between the management and the players.

"Admittedly it was tough after the first two games, when we knew we couldn't get through to the semi-finals, to try to get ourselves going for a third game against Australia, which was probably the toughest. But we did really well in that game and beating them was big for us."

Dingwall was hailed for his leadership abilities at Saints last season, with boss Chris Boyd explaining how the youngster's words of wisdom helped the black, green and gold to beat Exeter Chiefs at the Gardens last December.

Trying to spur his team-mates on is something Dingwall enjoys, but he says it is important to know when to speak and when not to.

"I'm always comfortable speaking when I feel I've got something to say," said the Cambridge-born player.

"I would never want to speak when I don't have anything to say because it becomes really rubbish and you just get lost.

"You never want to be that person who is speaking too much and people get bored of your voice.

"I wasn't speaking all the time when we were with the 20s, I felt I still needed a lot of other leaders, and there were a lot of other leaders in that team."