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Northampton Saints embracing the pressure of facing Saracens

Northampton Saints Director of Rugby Phil Dowson has called for his side to embrace the pressure of facing Saracens on Friday night, as they seek a spot in the Premiership final. 

The Saints romped to the top of the table in the regular season with 12 wins from their 18 matches, however they came unstuck against the same opposition at this stage last season.

Despite their semi-final loss to Saracens last season, Dowson’s side have beaten the defending champions twice already this year.

Speaking to the media ahead of the game, Dowson said: “The lads should embrace it, because if we don’t we’re going to push it away and pretend it’s not there. It’s a massive game, but it’s also something that we should be confident about. We just have to make sure that the things that have got us to this point are the things that we’re focused on for this week [against Saracens].”

He also detailed his side are fully aware of the the threat posed by Saracens.

“We’ve got confidence in our game, but we’re under no illusions that they are a threat. The quality of both character and skill is absolutely staggering. We know it’s going to be a big test but we’re confident we’ve got the ability to get it right.”

The clash on Friday night is Northampton’s first home semi-final since 2015. That season, the Saints finished top of the table, but came unstuck in their home semi-final…to Saracens.

A win for Northampton Saints this weekend though would put them in their first Premiership final since 2014, the year they last won the title.

Phil Dowson on takeaways from Leinster semi-final

Northampton Saints DoR Phil Dowson-Credit: IMAGO

Northampton Saints DoR Phil Dowson-Credit: IMAGO

The upcoming clash against Saracens will also be Northampton’s second semi-final this season, after they reached the final four in the Champions Cup too.

They might have slipped to a 20-17 defeat to Leinster that day at Croke Park, but Dowson detailed how that has been a big part of his messaging this week.

“I think the lessons learned from the semi-final against Leinster [have been a talking point this week]. We’ve had that experience in a really big game. What did we do really well, what could we do better and how did we approach that game as a coaching group as well as a playing group.”

He added: “We’ve definitely tried to pull on some of those things and actually, if we’re going to put ourselves in that situation again, what would we do differently?”

Whilst he was quick to highlight this key point within his messaging, Dowson was also quick to add he’s not made too much of a ‘theme’ for the week.

“I think you’ve got to be careful of going through a whole season where you’ve bleated on about habits, consistency, doing the fundamentals under pressure and then going ‘it’s a theme this week lads’; but there has to be something underlying it and what we’re trying to continue to push.”

Dowson on the connection of the  Northampton Saints playing group

Northampton Saints DoR Phil Dowson-Credit: IMAGO

Northampton Saints DoR Phil Dowson-Credit: IMAGO

A whole host of players are leaving Franklin’s Gardens at the end of the season. Courtney Lawes and Lewis Ludlam are leaving for France, Waller’s Alex and Ethan are hanging up their boots, and other players like Joel Matavesi and Callum Braley are also heading to pastures new.

With that in mind, there is a clear incentive for this particular group to win their first title since 2014, and Dowson was full of praise for his squad as a whole.

“I think the fact that we’re here is pretty special. It’s been a while since we’ve been at home for a semi-final. I don’t think we’ve overplayed it because we don’t want to ramp up the pressure; but one thing that’s been so impressive this year, or one of the things, is how connected the group are and how emotionally brought together they are to what the team is trying to do.”

He added: “I think that in itself is probably a strong story line.”