'Flattering in some ways' that Toulon have showed interest in Saints stars

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Phil Dowson says it’s ‘flattering in some ways’ that Toulon have showed such interest in Saints players in recent times.

The French giants have signed Dan Biggar and David Ribbans from Saints during the past year, and they have also been strongly linked with current Saints skipper Lewis Ludlam.

Ribbans is set to make his first return to cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday night as he starts for Toulon against Saints.

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Biggar is not available due to injury but he is due to be a pundit for TNT Sports at the game.

Phil Dowson (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)Phil Dowson (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Phil Dowson (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

And Dowson said: "Clearly there’s a lot of history there in terms of Toulon signing those two lads and so it’s great that they’re coming back.

"You wish them luck in Toulon but hopefully when they come back here it’s not too good an experience.”

When it was jokingly suggested that Toulon might eye up more Saints stars if the hosts impress on Friday night, Dowson said: "They do seem to have a scouting eye on our group. I suppose that’s flattering in some ways."

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Saints’ full focus will be on ensuring they are able to earn the win this week as they bid to back up their superb 28-19 Investec Champions Cup opening-night success at Glasgow Warriors last Friday.

Dowson said: "We had a good first-half performance last week.

"We’re just going to keep trying to push to maintain that momentum because we know that the challenge only gets tougher and bigger and we know we need to be right on the mettle again."

Toulon got off to a slower start last weekend, with Henry Slade’s last-gasp conversion giving Exeter Chiefs a dramatic 19-18 win at Stade Felix Mayol.

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"I thought Exeter were outstanding in terms of what they did and how they defended, how they applied pressure, how they stuck in the game,” Dowson said.

"If you take that game out of it and look at Top 14 and how good Toulon have been, they're second in the table currently with an all-star cast.

"They’re an absolute handful and you know they’ll be hurting having lost at home to a Chiefs side that were unbelievable."

When asked about the main threats Toulon pose, Dowson said: "Clearly they’ve got individuals around the park who can make things happen. That individual flair and brilliance is coupled with the identity of Toulon of being able to move around.

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"They can attack you with offloads and the ability to go fast from quick lineouts, from quick taps from a bright nine, crossfield kicks from Biggs as and when he plays or they’ve got a scrum that can dominate you, they’ve got a lineout that can go over the top of you.

"It’s one of those sides where every element of your game needs to be on-point or you’re going to come unstuck."