Challenge of taking on 'very confrontational and very physical' Tigers excites Saints

Phil DowsonPhil Dowson
Phil Dowson
Phil Dowson knows Saints will face a ‘very confrontational and very physical’ Leicester Tigers team on Saturday (kick-off 4.30pm).

The two sides square up in a Gallagher Premiership play-off semi-final at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.

Tigers will undoubtedly be the big favourites, having topped the regular-season table, winning 20 of their 24 league matches.

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Steve Borthwick’s side won every Premiership home game during the campaign and will have their sights set progressing to Twickenham on June 18.

But Saints have won six of their past seven matches in the league, racking up 32 points from a possible 35 during that time.

And forwards coach Dowson is looking forward to seeing his side take on the Tigers.

"It's why we play, it's why we're coaching: to give ourselves a crack at silverware,” said Dowson, who takes over as Saints director of rugby this summer. “That also runs right through the heart of Leicester also.

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“They talk about styles making fights and it's certainly two different styles with the way they play and the way we play.

“They are very confrontational, very physical, it will be a good challenge and we're looking forward to it.”

Saints booked their place in the play-offs by beating Newcastle Falcons 65-26 on the final day of the regular season.

It was a thrilling game in which the black, green and gold scored 10 tries.

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And Dowson said: “Newcastle played a big part in it and when Alex Mitchell went in the bin at the start of the second half, we were under a huge amount of pressure.

“We did get a little bit nervous, but I thought the impact of the bench was excellent and we showed that when we play the way we play we're a handful and it's really entertaining.

"It's been a weird past couple of weeks because we had one game in the month of May so we haven't played a lot of rugby and we did need a good workout.

"Newcastle were good value and they gave it a real go.

"We definitely needed it and there are loads of things we can be better at, but the most important thing is that we've won and we're in the play-offs this weekend.”

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The game against Newcastle was Chris Boyd’s last Gardens encounter in charge of Saints.

And Dowson said: “What a legend! He's an absolute legend of a coach and also a brilliant bloke.

“He's been brilliant for the development of this squad, the development of this coaching group and also for the pathway of the Academy and you see that with the way the players play.”

Lewis Ludlam has been one of the men to benefit most during Boyd’s four-year tenure.

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Ludlam is now Saints skipper and scored a try on his 100th appearance for the club last weekend.

"He's been outstanding as a player and as a captain,” Dowson said.

"His leadership qualities during the week alongside Fraser Dingwall have been outstanding and had a real impact on the group.

"When we lose the leadership of Courtney (Lawes) and Biggs (Dan Biggar) during international periods, Luds has really stepped up as captain.”