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Dowson satisfied with preseason progress despite defeat at Bedford

Director of Rugby Phil Dowson insisted that despite a 33-24 loss at Bedford Blues in their opening preseason clash, there were plenty of silver linings for the young Northampton Saints side that took to the field.

The men in Black, Green and Gold led at the interval thanks to a double from George Hendy and a try for Angus Scott-Young, but despite one more score from Henry Pollock in the second 40, it was the Blues who crossed the whitewash three more times to seal a victory.

Led by some more senior heads in Tom Cruse, James Grayson and Scott-Young, Saints’ side was packed with youth – with 14 Senior Academy players and seven guest players within the matchday squad – and Dowson was pleased to see many of those involved stick their hands up when given the opportunity to impress.

“It was a typical first hit-out really, pre-season games often look pretty scrappy at times and pretty loose,” said Dowson.

“There were lots of things we need to get better at, but there was evidence of the new bits we were trying to put into our game in patches, and the effort, desire and intent of what we were trying to do was clear.

“We’re a long way from the finished article but it was a really good hit-out to find out where we are.”

Phil Dowson, Director of Rugby

“Henry Pollock stood out again, as did Archie McParland at nine. I’m not going to name too many names, but I also thought Tom Cruse led particularly well as captain of that young group. It’s the experience coupled with his ability to lead – those are the important bits.

“Particularly in the first half, we saw lots and lots of elements of our game that we’re trying to drive.

“I enjoy preseason games; finally having a game at the end of the week, after a long summer of training, is important because we’ve spent a long time working towards it. You find out what’s working and what’s not working, and what you need to keep developing until you start playing competitive games.”

Saints’ attentions now turn to a clash on home soil next weekend against a Barbarian F.C. side which is set to be packed full of Australian and Japanese internationals on Rugby World Cup standby.

Then comes a run of five Premiership Rugby Cup matches for Northampton, and Dowson admits the weeks ahead will be about making improvements on the field while also managing the entire squad’s workload with a long and relentless Gallagher Premiership schedule beginning in October.

He said: “We’ve got next weekend’s match against the Barbarians and five Premiership Rugby Cup games before the Premiership even starts, so it’s about managing the squad for now.

“Not every player is going to play every game; there’s no break weeks once the season starts, so managing the squad during this period is going to be really important to how we prepare for the season.”

Phil Dowson, Director of Rugby

“Those younger guys need an opportunity to play, to get up to speed, so to get those guys opportunity on a stage like this to find out what they’re about is really important. Squad depth is really important and that’s what we’re challenging at the moment.

“We took a couple of soft tissue injuries in the past couple of weeks, so these guest players have come in looking for an opportunity. With Wasps, Worcester and London Irish sadly going, there’s guys who are available and looking for contracts.

“All the guys who have come in, I can’t speak highly enough of their professionalism and of how they’ve adapted to life as a Saint. To a man, they’ve been absolutely excellent, and I thought a lot of them did some really good stuff on the pitch as well.”

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