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Gardens can be an emotional feeder for Saints on Friday night, says Dowson

A packed-out cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens can be an ‘emotional feeder’ for Northampton Saints on Friday night (kick-off: 7.45pm), according to head coach Phil Dowson.

As a reward for finishing top of the the Gallagher Premiership, the men in Black, Green and Gold will have home advantage for a play-off clash for the first time in nine years, as defending champions Saracens make the trip north from London.

Saints have lost just two of their last 23 home league games at the Gardens and will be hoping to extend that record and secure their place in the Twickenham Stadium final on Saturday 8 June.

Ahead of the eagerly-anticipated showdown, Dowson explained the advantages of being at home sprinkled with some words of caution from his own playing career.

“It is funny, there was an unbelievable home record in my last year at Newcastle Falcons, and they [Saints] hadn’t lost all season. The Falcons came here, as lowly Falcons at the time, and we beat them,” he said.

“We talked about the fact that the pitch isn’t magic, the fans aren’t going to make any tackles or score any points, but they are going to add to the atmosphere and the energy that drives you to do what you need to do

“So, rather than focusing on being at home, defensively we need to think about what we have done all year, what has worked. And the same from an attack point of view.

“The energy we get from being here at the Gardens – we are here every day to eat, drink (occasionally) and train – so there is a definite bond to our home.”

Phil Dowson, Director of Rugby

“Also there is the atmosphere the fans drive, all your family in the crowd, there is definitely an emotional feeder for what you are trying to do.”

Alongside it being Saints’ first home semi-final since many of their backline stars were aspiring teenagers at the start of their rugby journeys, the occasion will also see multiple long-serving players tread the Gardens turf for the final time in what promises to be an emotionally-charged occasion.

“The fact we are here is pretty special, it has been a while since we were at home for a semi-final,” said Dowson. “It is the same for Saracens, Sale and Bath – there are players leaving who have had a huge impact on the Club, so we have tip-toed around that. We have talked about it, but I don’t think we have overplayed it.

“One of the things that has been impressive this year is how connected the group are, and how emotionally bought in they are to what the team are trying to do, and I think that in itself is a strong enough storyline.”

He added: “We have got confidence in our game, but we are under no illusions as to the threat and the quality of both character and skill that is sat in that Saracens changing room. We know it is going to be a big test but we are confident we have got the ability, if we get it right, to do a job.”

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