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Phil Dowson is Director of Rugby at Northampton Saints
Claire Jones / RedHatPhoto.com
Phil Dowson is Director of Rugby at Northampton Saints
Claire Jones / RedHatPhoto.com

Dowson: Saints must be well-prepared for Gloucester test

Director of Rugby Phil Dowson is well aware of the threat in-form Gloucester Rugby pose for his Northampton Saints side in this weekend’s Gallagher Premiership clash at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

A five-point victory this weekend for the men in Black, Green and Gold would secure a first home semi-final in the competition since 2015.

But the Cherry and Whites are also riding the crest of a wave, having rediscovered some form in recent weeks to win the Premiership Rugby Cup and progress into the final of the European Challenge Cup.

In the Premiership, Gloucester sit ninth after a frustrating campaign, but Dowson is refusing to underestimate the visitors tomorrow.

“The fact that there’s no pressure on them makes them very dangerous,” he said. “They can come and express themselves however they want. They’ve been working on certain things throughout the season and they’ll be looking to make improvements.

“We’ve got to make sure that we’re on our mettle and that we prepare appropriately to get our game on the field.

“The players are aware of the opportunity that sits in front of us, we’ve got to make sure we prepare accordingly to make sure that we don’t fall short.”

Phil Dowson, Director of Rugby

Dowson’s side have been involved in some huge matches over the last few weeks, playing in front of a combined 142,000 supporters at Twickenham (in the Big Summer Kick Off against Harlequins), and then at Croke Park against Leinster.

Despite a narrow 20-17 defeat to the Irish giants last time out, Dowson insists those experiences will help Saints go one step further in the future.

“Those experiences are never linear and it’s never going to be that we get better and better until we do it,” Dowson said.

“There’s going to be ups and downs, and we have to take that in our stride. We’re definitely learning about ourselves in terms of how we deal with pressure as a group, as a coaching team and everything really.

“They are all scars that will hopefully allow us to be better in the future.”

Phil Dowson

“It’s the experience element of it. We haven’t had many European knockout games within that group. We’ve got some players with loads of experience, like Courtney [Lawes], and some players with little, like George Hendy.

“All those players will be better for that experience and it should actually give this group loads of confidence in terms of what we’re capable of and how much better we can be and how enjoyable those occasions are – to play at special stadiums, in front of big crowds, against good teams, it’s why we’re here.”

With Saints’ destiny firmly in their own hands ahead of Saturday’s match against Gloucester, Dowson added that the importance of a home semi-final tie is not lost on the men in Black, Green and Gold.

“Statistically, you have a higher chance of winning a semi-final if you are at home, so therefore it’s been one of our targets all season and we’re still on track for that.

“But there’s nothing taken for granted, we’ll make sure we keep pushing on.”

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