Dingwall sets sights on Clermont after 'special' Saints debut

Fraser Dingwall made his Saints debut last Saturday (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Fraser Dingwall made his Saints debut last Saturday (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Well aware of the result, Fraser Dingwall stopped short of labelling his first Saints appearance a dream debut.

Instead, the centre stressed how ‘really, really special’ it was to finally get a first-team chance.

Dingwall was introduced with five minutes to go at Twickenham last Saturday as Saints were beaten 23-15 by local rivals Leicester Tigers in torrid conditions.

And on a day when Saints raised funds for retired centre Rob Horne, it was fitting that a youngster who one day hopes to fill the 13 shirt Horne made his own got his first taste of senior Northampton action.

“It was really, really special in terms of occasion, at Twickenham and for Rob Horne, who has had a massive influence on this club,” said Dingwall, who is just 19 years
old.

“It wasn’t necessarily a dream debut because the result didn’t do us justice but in terms of occasion it was really special.

“I’m definitely still young and I’m just trying to learn as much as I can.

“When opportunities arise, I try to take them when I can.

“It’s new coaches and a fresh year for a lot of lads.

“One of the main things Chris Boyd said is that he’s looking to play players who are perfoming each week and it’s really good for the young lads because opportunities are coming.”

Just as Australian international Horne did, Dingwall prides himself on a gritty defensive game.

And there is no doubt the youngster, who helped England reach the World Rugby Under 20 Championship final last summer, has taken tips from Saints reigning players’ and supporters’ player of the year.

“I play the same position and Rob is someone I definitely looked up to at the club,” Dingwall said.

“I tried to learn as much as I could from him and he led really well, spoke really well and delivered each week.

“I’d very much like to be a similar player to him.

“He had a strong defensive edge to him, which is something I try to bring to my game.

“But his attacking game was really strong in terms of the way he carried the ball and found space.”

Having made his first-team debut, Academy product Dingwall is now desperate to sample more big matches this season.

And with boss Boyd happy to trust his young guns, there should be plenty more Saints minutes for Dingwall in the Challenge Cup and Premiership Rugby Cup clashes that will come during the next five weeks.

“There will be a lot of opportunities for young lads over the next few weeks and you’ve got to put your name out there,” Dingwall said.

“We’re targeting the next two weeks hard, and the Prem Rugby Cup is when a lot of young lads traditionally get a shot.

“We’ve got a lot of Wandies lads pushing for the first team and could play if needed.”

Dingwall looks likely to feature for Saints in their Challenge Cup opener against French giants Clermont Auvergne at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday afternoon.

And he said: “Clermont have obviously got a really strong squad and they’re a renowned name in European rugby.

“We’ll be expecting a really physical game and it’s a great challenge.

“We beat them here last season and hopefully we can do the same again on Saturday.

“French sides away can be a bit hit and miss and it’s about turning up from the start and trying to keep them on the plane.”