Dowson delivers full injury update ahead of Saints' clash with Exeter

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Phil Dowson is optimistic that Juarno Augustus won't be sidelined for too long after the No.8 was ruled out of Friday's clash with Exeter Chiefs.

Augustus picked up a rib cartilage problem that forced him off six minutes before the break in the 45-31 win against Bristol Bears last weekend.

He was listed on Saints' 'not considered for selection' list for the game against Exeter at cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens.

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And when asked about that at Thursday's media session, Dowson said: "Juarno had a rib cartilage problem last weekend so hopefully he won't be out for too long. He told me he didn't even know he had ribs!"

Juarno AugustusJuarno Augustus
Juarno Augustus

James Grayson was also added to the injury list, having come off the bench to score against Bristol last Saturday.

"James has a problem with his foot that is being investigated," Dowson said.

Lewis Ludlam was ruled out for both Saints and England this weekend, having picked up an injury during the defeat at Bath on October 22.

"Luds is on a week by week," Dowson said.

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"He took a hip pointer, a sort of dead hip, they scanned it and it's just a case of making sure he can move around properly and not making it any worse.

"It's a week by week one with Luds."

Courtney Lawes has not played since suffering concussion against Leicester Tigers on September 24.

And Dowson said: "In the graduated return to play process, it gets to a point where you go and do contact but he had symptoms after that.

"That was a while ago so he's still at that level which involved running, lifting weights and doing everything other than running into other people.

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"He's not done any contact since so he's working his way through that process with the physios and the trainers to make sure he stays on top of his fitness and is monitoring the symptoms to make sure he keeps doing the right thing.

"It's just about getting to the next level because if you have symptoms you stay where you are, if you don't you do a certain period of training at that level until someone says 'you should be good to go', but it takes as long as it takes."

Forward Karl Wilkins has yet to feature for Saints so far this season due to a knee injury, but he is set to return in the not too distant future.

Dowson explained: "He's good. He had a knee injury in pre-season and I've got him down for the middle of November for a return to play so that is obviously flexible.

"He's not too far away.

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"He's been allowed out of the gym, which is a relief for any player because they get locked in the gym with physios and it can get slightly monotonous and you're not within a big group of players, which is tough.

"He's been out and about, running and getting some fresh air, which is pretty healthy for him.

"He can see the end in sight with his knee."

Saints are able to welcome Tommy Freeman and Courtnall Skosan back for the Friday night fixture against Exeter.

Freeman picked up a foot injury in the win at Wasps last month, while Skosan suffered concussion in the same fixture.

Both players will start this week.

"It's brilliant to have them back," Dowson said.

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"Freemo has just been working away in the background because he had a bit of an issue with his foot, which can take time, but he's been back training and he's been flying around. He's looked very sharp.

"It's been great to have Courtnall back as well because he was in very decent form before taking a bit of a head knock. He's been working through that graduated return to play."

Young flanker Kayde Sylvester is set to make his first Premiership appearance for Saints from the bench against Exeter.

And Dowson said: "Kayde is really good in contact, he's got a good skillset, he's athletic, he's very good in the lineout.

"He's a good all-rounder in that space.

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"He's had an absolutely shocking run of injuries and he had things that didn't go his way so he had long periods of time out.

"This opportunity tomorrow night is fantastic because he's such a popular member of the Academy and the club.

"Everyone has seen what he's been through in the past couple of years injury wise and we're hoping this is a really good opportunity for him and a really good experience for him.

"He's still a young man but he's got a really good head on his shoulders."

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Saints have three hugely talented backs to call upon from the bench this week as George Furbank has been released by England and Alex Mitchell and Matt Proctor are given a bit of a breather.

Scrum-half Mitchell, who has been replaced in the starting 15 by Tom James, is set to make his 100th Saints appearance when he comes on.

"It's a very strong bench and that gives you loads of opportunity to drive energy and quality and all those things," Dowson said.

"George obviously had a week in Jersey and the front half of the week with England so it's great to be in a position where we don't have to rush him back in.

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"Alex Mitchell is highly-raced, he's been involved in every game, highly-minuted in lots of those games so we want to make sure we look after him and he stays fresh, especially when we've got the quality of Tom James and Cal Braley as well. I'm looking forward to seeing TJ go.

"With Matty P we've got a bit of rotation around the centres to make sure everyone stays as fresh as possible for as long as possible."