Dowson reflects on his director of rugby dress rehearsal at Saints

Phil DowsonPhil Dowson
Phil Dowson
“I didn’t enjoy it because we didn’t win.”

That was Phil Dowson’s succinct assessment of his first dummy run as Saints director of rugby.

Forwards coach Dowson, who will take over from boss Chris Boyd this summer, was in the hotseat on Sunday as Boyd was serving the first game of a two-match ban for comments made about referee Adam Leal after Saints’ defeat to Saracens earlier this month.

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Boyd was sat in the Barwell Stand watching on as he is not able to take part in matchday duties while suspended.

That meant Dowson took the reins in a practice for what lies ahead for next season.

And it was some game to do it in as Saints welcomed Ulster to cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens for a Champions Cup clash.

But though they battled until the end, with Rory Hutchinson’s late try salvaging a losing bonus point, Saints were beaten 24-20 as their European campaign continued in winless fashion.

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And for Dowson, it was disappointment at the end of a week that has brought him so much glee as four days earlier it was announced that he would be taking charge of the club he made 186 appearances for as a player between 2009 and 2015.

“I’d have enjoyed it a lot more if we’d come out with a win but it was a really good learning experience for me personally,” Dowson said.

“I will debrief it with Chris during the week and when we’re on the way to France (Saints face Racing 92 on Sunday) and make sure I take those lessons to improve my performance as well.”

Though some fans are sceptical about Dowson’s appointment as Saints’ next director of rugby, feeling the club will need a more experienced man at the helm when Boyd departs, there will surely be none who do not wish him well in the role.

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He was a fans’ favourite as a player, lifting several trophies, including Saints’ only Premiership title, after joining from Newcastle Falcons.

And Dowson says he has received plenty of messages of congratulations since his new role was announced last week.

“I’ve had a lot of very kind messages and I really enjoyed that,” said the 40-year-old.

“It was nice for people to take the time out to do that and that’s people from all walks of life, not just rugby.

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“It’s sort of surreal but it’s been a long time negotiating, putting a plan in place and getting it all sorted.

“It’s nice to have that certainty around what’s happening next season.

“Myself, the coaching staff, heads of department, everyone at the club are fully in support of Chris for this next six months.

“We’ve got to make sure we win stuff and then we can start planning and putting things in place for next season.

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“First and foremost, we’ve got to make sure we get better this year.

“For me, it’s trying to find that balance between doing my current role, which is very important to the success of the club, and making sure I’m learning and picking up as much as possible from Chris in the medium term.”

Dowson may not be Northampton-born, but there is no doubt he fully understands what life at Saints is all about.

He said: “I know all about it, I know all about the history, I know all about the importance of it in the town, I know all about the players.

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“I know lots and lots about it and that’s what makes it even more of a privilege that they’ve put that trust in me to give me the opportunity next season.”

But Dowson knows that what matters most is the performances and results on the pitch.

And he is now hoping Saints can put things right when they square up to a star-studded Racing 92 side in Paris on Sunday.

“It’s obviously a big ask for us,” Dowson said.

“Chris is obviously going to be in charge of that in terms of debriefing this game and seeing how we go into the next game in terms of selection and what we’re trying to get out of it.

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“But the game doesn’t change in terms of what we’re trying to do and we need to be better at certain elements of it.

“We’ve got an opportunity to do it against Racing against a very good side in a unique stadium.”