'Back in the mixer' - Saints boss Dowson relishing return to league action

Phil DowsonPhil Dowson
Phil Dowson
Phil Dowson knows his players are itching for a return to Gallagher Premiership action on Saturday.

The black, green and gold have had two weekends without a league game since securing a superb 19-18 success at Leicester Tigers on January 28.

Saints moved up to fourth thanks to that victory and they will now look to build on it against second-placed Sale Sharks at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And Dowson, who saw his side suffer a 30-18 defeat at London Irish in the Premiership Rugby Cup semi-finals last Friday, said: “It's been good (for first-team regulars to have a rest) and time off is integral because the game is brutal and guys need time to rest and recover.

"You can't play flat out every week but you also don't want to have too long off.

"Once you get beyond two weeks, you're getting itchy feet and you want to get back out there.

"We're looking forward to seeing the boys get back in the mixer in the Premiership.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Last Friday was disappointing because we felt that was a side that could really challenge in that tournament and we were frustrated because we started very well but drifted away in different areas of the game.

"It's been good to spend a week with those lads who don't get many minutes and who were looking for a chance to impress, but fundamentally we're disappointed by the result.”

Saints suffered in the set piece against London Irish, but they were far from overawed in the heat of battle at Leicester.

And when asked how important it is that Saints maintain the physicality they showed against Tigers when Sale come calling, Dowson said: “You need it every week.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"There's not many sides who win games who aren't winning physical battles.

"All the fundamentals of the game are essential, particularly against one of the top two sides in the country.

"That physicality element is absolutely crucial, set-piece element, breakdown, defensive integrity, intensity in the kick chase, all those things are fundamental every week.

"It's difficult to do every week in terms of how you need to train and put emphasis on things but we're aware of the challenge this week."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Sale are buoyed by the return of some big-hitters this weekend and they boast an extremely strong squad that has propelled them up to second in the Premiership.

"They've been excellent,” Dowson said.

"(Sale boss) Alex Sanderson's really got his mark on that in terms of they've got a very, very strong pack.

"You see the maul tries against Bath and you see how strong they can be.

"You see Rob du Preez playing at 10, if it's not (George) Ford, and they just create so much for the backline.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Sam James is a class act, they've got speed, (Tom) O'Flaherty has been a cracking signing for them and they've got a cracking all-round game.

"They really challenge sides up front and around the backline so they've got good balance in their game.”