Evergreen Worcester Warriors back-rower Phil Dowson believes the club have pulled off one of the signings of the season after luring Ben Te’o from Leinster Rugby.
The powerful centre is already on the radar of England boss Eddie Jones and toured in the summer to Australia as the Red Rose completed an historic 3-0 whitewash of the Wallabies.
Te’o, who started life in rugby league and played for the Brisbane Broncos and the South Sydney Rabbitohs, enjoyed a breakthrough season for Leinster last campaign after switching codes – producing a series of powerful performances in the PRO12.
The Aviva Premiership Rugby season may not have started as Dowson and Worcester would have hoped for – they lost against Saracens and Bath Rugby and have drawn with Gloucester and Sale Sharks – but Dowson insists Te’o has been one of the shining lights for the Warriors so far this season.
And 34-year-old Dowson, who made over 180 appearances for Northampton Saints, is backing his new team-mate to have a memorable season for club and country.
“He’s very experienced and is a very good player; he adds a lot to our squad,” said Dowson, speaking at the launch of this year’s Aviva Community Fund alongside team-mates Chris Pennell and Tom Heathcote.
“He’s been in good club environments at Leinster and South Sydney Rabbitohs and brings a lot of experience.
“He’s a strong carrier and, offloading, hopefully we can try and encourage him to get the ball out the tackle.
“He’s still finding his feet and getting used to the Aviva Premiership. It’s not been a long career in union but we see him as a vital part of the squad in how we move forward.”
The Aviva Community Fund is a nationwide initiative that lends a helping hand to local communities by offering support and funding for inspirational local causes, clubs and projects.
It has already benefited over 320,000 people, through 431 winning projects across the UK, and this year, local grassroots sports clubs can apply or reapply for funding in a new, sport-specific category.
And Dowson believes the grassroots level of the game can provide people with skills they may not get anywhere else.
“I think it’s vitally important the game is not just about the professional clubs but also about boys playing Saturday and Sunday, first, second or third teams and schools,” he added.
“The community aspect is vital in getting people to share time together. It can be a focal point of a community and it can breed that team spirit and ability to work in a team which are vital skills.
“I played at school and it was great to go out and play, working as a team, have respect for a team, prepare for games, and it’s great for non-tangible bits as well as skills. The friends you make will last throughout life.”
Dowson picked up the peculiar honour earlier this season of being the only player in the history of the Aviva Premiership to start on 13 separate opening weekends when he appeared against Saracens in the London Double Header.
And the former Northampton Saint believes the management of his workload through his career has been pivotal in his longevity. “It shows probably two things, the first that I am getting older, the second that I have been quite lucky with injuries,” he said.
“There hasn’t been anything too major and I’ve been fortunate to have clubs that have looked after me. I have got through pre-season well and I love the opening weekend – it’s always exciting.”
Premiership Rugby and the 12 Aviva Premiership Rugby Clubs are supporting the Aviva Community Fund, a nationwide initiative which offers funding of up to £25,000 to grassroots sports clubs and other community organisations close to your heart. Enter at aviva.co.uk/community-fund from September 13.