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In-Depth: Patient Dawe ready to grab opportunity with both hands

The emotional rollercoaster of professional sport is something Ollie Dawe knows all too well.

Since the elation and ecstasy of a Six Nations Grand Slam, and the disappointment of a World Cup final defeat in the first half of 2017, injury problems have seen the England U20 prop cut a frustrated figure in the second. Now, fully fit, refreshed and rejuvenated, Dawe is out to make up for lost time under the tutelage of Pat Lam and his coaching team.

The 20-year-old started every game as England U20 sealed their first Grand Slam since 2011 with a hard-fought victory over Ireland in Dublin, before playing a big part in a World Cup campaign that saw them fall at the final hurdle to an outstanding New Zealand side.

Dawe was a second half substitute in a 64-17 defeat to the Baby Blacks in Tblisi, and although disappointed to come up short, the front row can reflect on a successful period, both individually and collectively.

Ollie Dawe in action against UK Armed Forces at Ashton Gate (JMP UK).

“It was gutting at the time, but such a great experience and I gained so much from it,” he said. “It’s an experience that improved me as a player, but also taught me plenty of life skills. So, I look back on it as a slight disappointment, in terms of losing in the final, but also as something that will benefit me going forward.

“In the final, we didn’t have that last push that we needed and New Zealand were a very good side.”

A hamstring injury ruled Dawe out of the opening six weeks of the season, and although frustrated by his time on the side line, the academy youngster set about making improvements off the field.

“Getting injured at the start of this season was massively frustrating, but I just looked at it as an opportunity to develop myself physically in the gym,” he said.

“Coming out of it, I feel better in myself, so it’s been a negative that I’ve been able to use as a positive to improve myself and make sure I was ready to go once recovered.

“In terms of how long my injury was, I haven’t missed too much rugby so being back fit now, I know I’ve got plenty of games left this season. Playing for Bristol is always my aim, so I’m looking forward to hopefully pulling on the first team shirt soon.”

“Getting injured at the start of this season was massively frustrating, but I just looked at it as an opportunity to develop myself physically in the gym.”

Ollie Dawe

As well as physical development, Dawe’s focus has also been on the technical side of life in the front row, with a particular emphasis on his ability to play tighthead, as well as loose. It’s a switch that academy forwards coach, Mark Irish has described as a ‘steep learning curve’, but one he’s fully confident Dawe can fulfil. 

“Ollie sees it as a challenge and he’s working really hard at his game,” said Irish. “We feel that he’s got the scrum mentality suited to tight head, but understand that it’s going to be a steep learning curve for him.”

The man himself also accepts it’s a move that will require plenty of hard graft, but knows he’s in the perfect environment to succeed.

“It’s going to take a while, but I’ve really taken to it and me and Mark Irish are doing a lot of work on it, so the more scrums I hit, the better it will come on,” says Dawe.

“Mark Bakewell has also taken me on board with it and I’m putting a lot of work in. The more I play, the better I’ll get at it. Iro (Mark Irish) and Bakes know their stuff, so working hard with them is the main thing really.”

Dawe meets young supporters at Bristol International Balloon Fiesta (JMP UK).

Dawe’s exploits for England U20 saw him named in the Six Nations team of the tournament – some feat in a Grand Slam winning year. The exciting front-row prospect now has his sights set on breaking into the first team fold at Bristol, sooner rather than later, but knows that patience and impatience are required in equal measure.

“Patience is what it’s all about, it’s about getting your mental state right. You want to be playing all the time, so maybe you sometimes you find yourself being impatient and I think the coaches understand that.

“But they also understand that I’m still developing physically and technically. It is a slow process, but it’s about working hard, waiting and biding my time, like I did last year where I got my opportunity late in the season. Hopefully it’ll come soon.

“The A League has been good for me, getting my experience there, hitting scrums and getting stuck in. Hopefully, with the B&I Cup coming up now, I’ll get my chance and put in some good performances.”