Northampton Saints centre Fraser Dingwall credits the trust Chris Boyd places in his young players for leading him to the fringes of the England team.
The call-up to Eddie Jones’ wider squad for this year’s Six Nations crowned a breakthrough 18 months in the youngster’s career.
Boyd arrived at Northampton as director of rugby in 2018, a key year for Dingwall who made his senior debut that October and skippered a strong England U20s in the Six Nations and World Rugby U20 Championship.
Dingwall, 21, said: “Chris is massive in putting trust into players. He’s a very honest man, you always know where you stand. So, it fills you with confidence to go and do your own thing.”
Dingwall was one of a trio of young Saints players to be called-up by Jones in January.
Cambridge-born Dingwall has made 25 senior appearances under Boyd including a memorable debut in the 2018 Midlands derby against Leicester. That game was played at Twickenham to raise money for former Northampton centre Rob Horne, who presented Dingwall with his shirt.
Dingwall acknowledges that his Saints teammates have played a key role in his development.
“I’m very fortunate that we’ve got a lot of good centres: Piers Francis who’s played for England, Rory Hutchinson, who’s recently capped by Scotland and All Black Matt Proctor. There’s a lot of internationals I can learn off.
“My game’s developed more so around the attacking part and finding out what my strengths are in that area.
“Sam Vesty has massively helped with that. He puts a big emphasis on the small detail and the minor skills. He’s changed the way I look at training in terms of applying pressure in different ways to get improvement.”
Dingwall admits he was not expecting his England call-up.
“I think I was there more to be looked at for the future. Eddie says that, obviously, there’s still a lot to work on, but the potential is there and it was a good opportunity to get into that high-level environment and see what it takes to become a regular Test player.”
It was almost inevitable that Dingwall would catch the rugby bug. His father Gordon enjoyed a long career with London Scottish and Newcastle Gosforth. Fraser was a small child on the touchlines watching Gordon and older brother Euan play for Cambridge RUFC.
He played for Cambridge at colts level until Saints helped facilitate his move to Bedford School, an institution with a strong sporting reputation and one he credits with playing a big role in his development.
His career, though, could have taken another route. He was also snapped up by Cambridge United FC’s academy and forced to choose between football and rugby when training clashed.
His father’s Scottish ancestry meant the young Dingwall’s first junior international experience came with Scotland, skippering the U16s at the Wellington Festival.
His switch to England colours culminated in the 2018 World Rugby U20 Championships final where they finished runners-up to France.
“That was a very good experience although I look back on that game with a big ‘what-if’, especially after beating them in the Six Nations earlier that year. But that was a very cool campaign. We had a lot of good players.”
Dingwall has not forgotten his roots at Cambridge RUFC and recently took part in a live webinar for coaches and aspiring players, sharing his journey from the club’s acclaimed mini and youth section to the fringes of the England team.
He added: “The advice that I tried to pass on, was to play as many sports as possible and then be as coachable as possible because then you can continually get better.
“So many players might not have been the star man when they were younger but worked hard at their game and have got themselves to an incredibly high level now.
“It’s so important to always be ready for that opportunity because it can come at any point.”
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