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“It’s derby week and we know what’s coming”-Phil Dowson looks ahead to East Midlands derby

Phil Dowson has said his players need no reminding of the task at hand this weekend, as Northampton Saints prepare for the East Midlands derby.

The last instalment of this historic derby saw Leicester take home the points, running away 26-17 winners at Welford Road; however Northampton have been on an upwards trajectory since then.

That defeat at the hands of Leicester started a run of 10 wins on the spin for the Saints, which has propelled them to the summit of the Premiership; but speaking to the media ahead of the game, Dowson is keen for revenge on their home turf.

“It’s a big occasion, it’s a massive game for both clubs. The place will be full and the level of expectation goes up. I think it’s a fantastic thing for the game and it’s a fantastic thing for our group of players to be involved with.”

He added: “It’s derby week and we know what’s coming. We got dished up there last time, but we need to be better this week.”

Following a tough loss to Bristol, Saints are back in the winning mood with three on the spin. The latter two against Munster and the Bulls also secured a Champions Cup semi-final for Dowson’s men.

With such a big game firmly on the horizon, it could be hard to keep the focus on the two Premiership games before; but Dowson said this is the perfect way to change the focus back to the domestic competition: “It’s derby week, so it’s quite easy [to change the focus], the lads are talking about it more than I needed to. You’ve got to drop Europe as quickly as possible and get on to the next one and it’s great that it’s Leicester because that will focus the mind.”

Phil Dowson reflects on ‘great’ East Midlands derby, and his own personal experiences of it

Credit: IMAGO

The East Midlands derby is always one of the best games in the Premiership calendar; but Dowson has had his own fair share of memories from this historic fixture.

Dowson joined Northampton in 2009, and went onto make 186 appearances in the black, green and gold. In that time, he played in the 2013 Premiership final and the 2011 (remembered mainly for the Tuilagi vs Ashton brawl) and 2014 semi-final’s between the bitter rivals.

Reflecting on his own experiences in this historic grudge match, Dowson revealed one particularly interesting stat: “The really tragic stat is that I never won at Walford Road. I got a draw there once.

He added: “In 2011, we played the semi-final there away and it was the most brutal game I’ve ever played in. Chris Ashton was often using the punch bag back in those days, so it wasn’t all bad.”

“It’s a great derby, and there’s so many good things around it,” he said. “Sometimes Saints are on top and sometimes Tigers are on top. The crowd and the town are always mad for it, and I’m super excited about it.