We spoke with Saints forward coach Phil Dowson ahead of Northampton’s clash against Harlequins in the Gallagher Premiership on Monday…
Q: The Heineken Champions Cup result in Ulster was not what the Saints were looking for, but were there more positives to take from this game than the week before?
PD: We didn’t start off very well, again, and gave ourselves a small mountain to climb, but I figured the effort and intention of the whole team to stay in. the game and stay within ten points, then a finish score just five points behind was excellent, considering the start. There were a lot of positives in the game but again we got frustrated because we thought there was more to this game for us and a few things we would do differently would give us an away win, in a place that is difficult to gain.
Q: Is the most important thing to come out of the last couple of weeks the need to start the games well?
PD: I think so because otherwise you are giving yourself a mountain to climb. There were details around the breakdown as well, like taking care of the ball and making sure we do the simple things really well so that at a high level against world class opposition you get caught if you slip slightly. on things. Consistency of precision, and things like that, are really important and there have been some really good lessons from that experience.
Q: Does the way you played in the second half at Ulster mean that the atmosphere in the squad has been good this week?
PD: I hope so and hope we are excited to play for the reigning champions Harlequins at Twickenham. Hope we are excited to take these boys. We need to keep learning and growing as a group, including the coaching staff, and generate that energy within us to keep improving.
Q: Let’s take a closer look at Harlequins, the big games keep coming!
PD: They are champions and they have brilliant players across the park – I know eight, nine and ten [Alex Dombrandt, Danny Care and Marcus Smith] get a lot of credit, but they have people like Joe Marler, Stephan Lewies, Andre Esterhuizen, and Tyrone Green. They all play brilliant rugby and they play a very exciting and thrilling game, so we have to make sure that defensively we are on our courage and we have to make sure that we are ready to take on them.
Q: This week we shared a video of Ollie SleightholmeTry out last season’s Stoop, which was one of the most extraordinary stints of play you’ve ever seen. Can we expect to see more at Twickenham?
PD: We want to play good offensive rugby that takes advantage of the space and I have the impression – strong impression – that they want the same thing. We don’t want the game to be loose or the ball to just be thrown, but we want to move the ball into space and enjoy that space. Hopefully we can do that and deny some of the threats they have and give us an opportunity.