Northampton Saints - Past disappointments keep Dowson grounded

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Phil Dowson is making sure he is not getting his hopes up over an England call-up after having so many let downs in the past.

Dowson has seemingly been on the cusp of making an England squad for most of his career and has the most caps for Saxons than anybody else.

The former Newcastle back-rower has been an ever-present for Saints since joining in 2009 and is in good form, scoring three tries in his last four games.

Plus he was part of Stuart Lancaster’s Saxons squad so is well known by the interim England head coach.

But Dowson, who was seen as a No. 8 by England under Martin Johnson despite never playing there for Saints, said: “I am very ambitious to play for England but having never been involved I can’t presume anything.

“I’ve been excited in the past about being picked for England and it hasn’t happened so I’ll keep my powder dry and make sure my focus is fully on Quins tomorrow night and whoever it is after that and make sure I keep the boss happy.

“I’m not going to worry about it until it happens so as it stands I’m at Northampton, loving it and hoping to play every week.”

Dowson can make another claim to be in Lancaster’s Six Nations squad, which is announced next Wednesday, against Harlequins and their much talked about back row.

Lancaster was at Kingston Park on Saturday to watch Dowson help Saints dismantle Newcastle in a 32-14 win.

But this week could be the first time in quite a while Jim Mallinder will have his full compliment of back row players to choose from. Roger Wilson is back from injury and Calum Clark could return after dislocating his thumb.

And Dowson admits, that at the age of 30, he is having to work hard to keep his place among such competition.

“This is one of the first years I’ve had having not been away with the Saxons,” said Dowson. “I’ve have had a full pre-season and some time off and when you’re training with the likes of Tom Wood and Calum Clark who are six years younger than me and 25kg stronger, you’ve always got to catch up. It keeps you young because there’s plenty of banter flying around.”

Dowson has been captain of Saxons in the past and will be well known by Lancaster. The closest he came to an England cap was being called up as an injury replacement for the 2010 tour of Australia, playing in the non-cap game against New Zealand Moari.

Dowson knows how Lancaster works and it is not dissimilar to the ethics of his Saints boss, with the onus on the players.

“Lannie (Lancaster) is pretty basic,” said Dowson. “He’ll put a basic game plan in for the players that he picks to suit their needs and they’ll put the meat on the bones.

“He wants people to take leadership out on the pitch and he’ll get the best out of them because he demands a certain standard but he also leaves the responsibility of the nuts and the bolts of the game to the players - which is to some extent the case here.

“Players do a lot of leading in terms of the meetings we have before games and so I think it’s massively positive that he trusts those players and he expects high standards from them.

“You want to play to the strengths of the guys you’ve got playing.

“There’s huge amounts of English players playing very well in the league and I think he’ll choose the guys he wants and then put a game plan to suit them, let them own that and then hopefully lead that through the Six Nations.”

There has been plenty of talk of blooding youth after England’s failure of the World Cup, which might count against Dowson, but the former Falcon is still hopeful.”

“There’s lots of good players,” said Dowson. “I look at the likes of Alex Goode or Nick Abendanon down at Bath who’ve been playing well week in, week out and I don’t think they get more or less excited about a new regime.

“They probably do what I do which is talk to various coaches both at England and at their clubs and get better. And hopefully one day it’ll happen whether the regime changes or not.”