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Dowson: Real excitement to see Saints represented at Rugby World Cup

Director of Rugby Phil Dowson tipped his cap to Lewis Ludlam and Courtney Lawes after the Northampton Saints duo were both named in England’s Rugby World Cup squad earlier this week.

England head coach Steve Borthwick announced his 33-man group for the tournament on Monday, with both Lawes and Ludlam making the final cut of players.

Lawes – who has 97 England caps to his name, two British and Irish Lions tours under his belt, and has played in three previous Rugby World Cups – is now in a league of his own as the only Saint to have ever played in four editions of the competition.

Meanwhile, Ludlam is poised to play in his second Rugby World Cup after his first inclusion to Japan four years ago.

The 27-year-old made his debut for the Red Rose in a World Cup warm-up game against Wales at Twickenham in 2019, and has not looked back, amassing 20 caps since and scoring one try in the process.

“It’s a huge credit to those two players to see them going to the tournament,” said Dowson. “Courtney will be going to his fourth World Cup, and Lewis has really cemented his place now, and is a key part of that squad for Steve Borthwick. 

“We’re very excited about seeing both those guys represent the Club and their country on such a big stage, as well as those that have already been called up by Fiji in Sam Matavesi and Temo Mayanavanua

“I was lucky enough to go and watch Lewis train with England a couple of weeks ago, and you can just see by the way he speaks and his leadership in that environment, how comfortable he is in there and how highly regarded he is.”

Phil Dowson

One of Saints’ summer signings, Tom Pearson, made his international debut for England last weekend away in Wales, but was one of those omitted from the final squad.

Northampton supporters will be looking forward to seeing the 23-year-old tyro in action in Black, Green and Gold at the start of the new season, but Dowson revealed Pearson will be staying with England for the time being to stay ready in case called upon by Steve Borthwick.

He said: “I spoke to Tom earlier this week. He’s going to stay in camp and continue to train with them. He’s very, very close from what I gather, and he’s had tons of really good feedback.

“It’s been his first experience of being in an international camp and I think he’s learnt a huge amount. Clearly, he’s disappointed and he wants to be ready to go if the opportunity does arise.

“He’s very mature, he’s a bright lad and he understands the situation. Back row is very, very competitive. You can see that from the players they’ve left out.

There’re still three more games before the World Cup even starts and we know how brutal the game can be. So, all our guys on the fringes like Alex Mitchell, Fraser Dingwall and Fin Smith are all set up and preparing accordingly with us, or in camp with them in Tom’s case

Phil Dowson

“The World Cup is a massive opportunity for the game to show its true colours. That’s not just from an English point of view; that’s globally and the French, who are mad for the sport, will put on a great show.

“I’m excited about seeing teams like Fiji, Japan, and all the tier two nations compete and show what the game is all about.”

While the Rugby World Cup draws ever closer, the return of club rugby is also only a few weeks away.

Saints’ preseason preparations continue apace with a preseason friendly against Bedford Blues and the home clash against Barbarian F.C. to come before the Premiership Rugby Cup gets underway in early September, and Dowson feels that his side are in a good position.

He added: “The commitment and the energy of the group was outstanding coming in after the disappointment of last year's semi-final, and the new players have been fantastic in terms of how they’ve adapted and immersed themselves into the Club and the group. 

“This next four weeks is all about gearing up to maintain some of those gains we’ve made in the gym and on the pitch, and make sure that we add a few more layers of detail.

“We’ll play a bit more rugby, and obviously we get back into contact which you have to do in a progressive way, to make sure that we’re ready to go for game time.”

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