Northampton Saints’ Phil Dowson has warned he is ready to come out all guns blazing when the LV=Cup gets under way.
Since joining from Newcastle Falcons in 2009, Dowson has been a near ever-present in the team but this season has seen him drop down the pecking order in the back row with Calum Clark, Samu Manoa and summer signing Jon Fisher all impressing.
He is yet to make an Aviva Premiership start, coming off the bench four times although Clark’s recent call-up to the England squad will free up a space in the team.
Attentions shortly turn to the LV=Cup, with Dowson ready to take a starring role once again.
Last season, the 33-year-old captained the side that reached the final before losing out to Exeter Chiefs 15-8, while he lifted the Saints’ first major domestic trophy when the team won the competition in 2010.
And with the chance to also play a mentoring role to the emerging young players at the club, a fit and firing Dowson is determined the team can return to the final once again.
“It’s frustrating not starting, it’s not something I’m used to. But it pushes you on,” he said.
“It’s competitive, one of the reasons you enjoy it is because of the quality.
“That’s why the LV coming up is good for me personally, it keeps you on your toes and I feel fresh as well because I haven’t started as many games as usual so I feel pretty good.
“With more players leaving on internationals it’s great news for those guys and a testament to the club’s culture – other guys have to step up.
“What’s also exciting for me as an older player is to see the younger players come in and experience the home crowd for the first time.
“The young guys and everyone who was involved last year felt that we put up a good run and that we didn’t actually carry it on and in the final produce the quality that we needed.
“And that’s not taking anything away from Exeter, they were very good at home.
“But of course we want to go one better and the challenge is to wipe that clean, start all over again, learn the lessons from that final and from all the games leading up to it and carry on growing as a squad.”
Saints open their campaign against Dowson’s former club Newcastle Falcons before travelling to face Scarlets the weekend after.
And with the LV=Cup viewed as a competition to blood the younger players, Dowson has already picked out a few he will be keeping his eye on.
“There’s a back row lad called Teimana Harrison, I don’t like to talk him up too much because he’ll probably take my contract at some point but he’s very robust and he plays that very aggressive game,” he added.
“He’s a great bloke as well who’s got the attitude and the aptitude. He’s certainly one that I will be looking out for and looking forward to playing with.
“In the second row there’s a guy called Alex Woolford who is just getting to grips with calling the line out so he will be under a lot of pressure and it will be interesting to see how he copes with that but he again is an intelligent lad who understands the game.”
Be part of the rugby family at the LV= Cup Final at Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton on Sunday, March 22.
Visit www.northamptonsaints.co.uk for tickets.