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Phil Dowson puts faith in Saints for Premiership playoff semi with Saracens
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Phil Dowson puts faith in Saints for Premiership playoff semi with Saracens

Northampton’s director of rugby, Phil Dowson, says his team expect a ­furious playoff challenge from Saracens on Friday but is confident Saints will not make the same mistakes that ended up costing them dearly in the Champions Cup semi-final against Leinster in Dublin.

Saints were narrowly beaten at Croke Park in a tense finish but their nervy first-half display ultimately proved decisive.

This time Northampton will be on home turf in the last four, ­having topped the Premiership table and defeated Saracens home and away. Dowson also believes the painful ­lessons of Dublin will prove beneficial.

“We probably built up the Leinster game to something that it wasn’t,” said Dowson, eager for his attack-minded side to hit their stride quicker this time. “We started tentatively in the first 20 minutes with lots of unforced errors and turnovers. We have to trust what we do because that is what has got us to this point.”

“We can definitely be better. I am sure Saracens have been saying ‘We have nothing to lose, let’s fire in and be ourselves’. But at the same time the benefit of playing at home is clear, both statistically and over a long period in the playoffs.

“It is a massive game but it is also something we should be confident about. We are under no illusions as to the threat and the quality sat in that Saracens changing room but we are confident we’ve got the ability, if we get it right, to do a job.”

Northampton have not won the Premiership title since 2014 and are also determined to give their loyal servants Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam and Alex Waller a fitting send-off in their last appearances at Franklin’s Gardens. Dowson, though, does not want the emotion of the occasion to be a distraction.

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“We have got to make sure we are there emotionally. But you don’t want to overplay that card and for us to be in floods of tears missing Courtney. It is a very fine balance.”

Source: theguardian.com