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Promising Saracens flanker Will Fraser overcomes three-year injury nightmare to secure first England Saxons call-up
If number sevens are meant to be lucky, Will Fraser has had a raw deal.
The 23-year-old was called up to England’s Saxons squad for the first time on Wednesday but such was the extent of an injury-plagued three years, the young Saracens number seven says he once considered giving up the game.
From the moment he left school in 2008, Fraser spent more time picking up prescriptions than rugby balls as a troublesome ankle, a torn knee ligament and then a damaged shoulder threatened to end his career before it had even begun.
“At the beginning when I’d just signed from school and then I got injured pretty much immediately, there was certainly a part of me that was wondering if it was the right thing to be doing,” he said.
“All my mates were off at university having the time of their lives and I had my foot in a cast and was sitting around feeling down, doing absolutely nothing.
“So yes, there were definitely moments when I wondered whether I was doing the right thing, but they were just moments – fortunately they passed, and I got on with it.”
Getting on with it saw Fraser given a run in the Men in Black’s first team towards the end of last season – ironically because of injuries to others – and the talented youngster seized the oppportunity with both hands.
This campaign Fraser has played in all Saracens’ key matches and racked up more minutes on the pitch than any Sarries player save the captain, Steve Borthwick.
The journey though has been a long one.
So when England coach Graham Rowntree told Fraser he would be in the Saxons squad on Wednesday night, Fraser admits he was overwhelmed.
“After I got the phone call I was quite emotional to be honest,” he said.
“Rugby’s been my life, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do so to get the chance to put the red rose on your chest is a huge honour.
“It’s massive for me – I’m incredibly, incredibly excited about the chance and hopefully I’ll get more opportunities in the future.”
Many have suggested those opportunities may come in a senior England shirt sooner rather than later, but Fraser insists he is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.
He said: “I’m not the sort of person who likes to get ahead of myself and start expecting things.
“I’ve been picked for Saxons and I’ve got a massive chance to play well in the two games coming up and hopefully make a claim for myself for the senior squad but just because you’re in the Saxons doesn’t mean you’re going to walk into the seniors.
“There’s a lot of things I need to work on – I need to get quicker and get more experience – and then hopefully that will allow me to one day play for the England first team.”
One thing that’s for sure is when Fraser runs out in the England white against the 02 Ireland Wolfhounds later this month his family will be in the stands.
Fraser’s younger brother Henry, who was paralysed as a 17-year-old after a diving accident, is a regular supporter at Sarries games and Will writes an ‘HF’ on his wrist before matches for inspiration.
“I was at home with my family when I got the call and Henry was with me – I think he heard me say ‘hi Graham’, so he had a clue I think that it was good news.
“He’s over the moon, my whole family are. They’ve all been brilliant for me.”
The Saracens man fondly recalls how his dad once followed him out to a game against Toulon and when all the local hotels were booked up, Fraser senior ended up sleeping in a hired smart car.
“He’s ridiculous,” the Sarries flanker said. “It means the world to me.”
If Fraser’s career progression continues the way it’s going, there could be many more sleepless nights to come.