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Dowson: Saints need to take lessons from Cup experience

Forwards coach Phil Dowson is challenging Northampton Saints’ youngsters to learn quickly from Saturday’s defeat to London Irish, with another Premiership Rugby Cup clash coming quickly into focus on Friday.

The men in Black, Green and Gold fell just short of making a sensational 19-point comeback against the Exiles in the tournament’s opening round.

Tries from George Hendy, James Fish, Josh Gillespie and Tom Litchfield allowed a young but dogged Saints side to level the scores with five minutes to play after conceding three first-half tries, but a late score from the visitors clinched a 36-26 victory.

Another Cup clash against Harlequins is already on the horizon for Northampton, and with the competition providing an opportunity for the Club’s Academy players to gain first-team experience, Dowson expects an improvement from the group at Twickenham Stoop on Friday evening.

“You can’t necessarily take satisfaction from a defeat, but you can certainly take lessons,” he said.

“You can learn a lot about individual players, and you can be really impressed and pleased with how certain players have performed – but there’s not a lot of satisfaction in losing, particularly at home. The last five minutes were disappointing.

“That’s what we need to rectify moving forward. We want to get a good result against Quins on Friday and build on that back into the Premiership.

“There were some good parts and some bad parts in that London Irish game, but so much to learn for this young group.”

Phil Dowson, Forwards Coach

Saints launch back into Gallagher Premiership action next weekend against Bristol Bears, but first face the Premiership Rugby Cup Pool 3 clash against Quins, and Dowson insists this period is invaluable in the context of the rest of the season.

He added: “It gives us the opportunity to rest up some players, and see these new guys under pressure in a different environment – that’s a great learning experience both from a coaching and playing point of view.

“I was really pleased on Saturday for people like Tom Lockett, who had a good impact when he came on for Brandon [Nansen]. Geordie Irvine also had a great ten-minute cameo, and it was great to see Ollie Newman back from injury. So, lots of guys in there putting their hands up.

“Praise should also go to the guys who weren’t on debut, but haven’t played a lot of rugby. It’s great to see the likes of Josh Gillespie out there getting that experience.

“Those guys who have been away on loan, it’s a great opportunity for them to come back, put on a Saints shirt and play a good level of rugby in front of a decent crowd. That’s what I think this tournament is about.”

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