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Saints ready for Saracens challenge, vows Dowson

Saints ready for Saracens challenge, vows Dowson

It doesn’t get much tougher than a trip to Allianz Park to face reigning Gallagher Premiership Rugby and European champions Saracens on the opening weekend of the new season.

That’s the challenge that awaits Chris Boyd’s Northampton Saints side after the fixtures for the 2019-20 English top flight campaign were revealed at BT Tower.

Saints enter the new season following an impressive campaign in which they clinched a top-four finish for the first time since 2015 on the final day, in their first campaign under the New Zealander.

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And forwards coach Phil Dowson insists the club are more than capable of springing another surprise as they set their sights on securing a home semi-final spot.

“It’s a big ask with the European and Premiership champions first thing up away from home, but we’ll concentrate on ourselves for the time being,” said Dowson.

“We’ll focus on Saracens nearer the time but it’s the toughest of challenges to start off with. We’re excited by that and it is going to be a firm test to go down there on day one.

“Chris [Boyd] set his stall out last season and we finished fourth. We want to improve on that as a home semi-final is integral if you want to make the final.

“We want to be better, especially at the start of the season where I thought we were quite inconsistent last year, but we were getting used to Chris’ style.

“We have a better understanding now of what we’re trying to do and I think we have our game plan down, we want to make sure the detail of that and the evolution is what we’re focusing on.

“There are not any particular aims, we want to continue to improve and if we do that then we give ourselves and opportunity to progress both in the Premiership and in Europe.

“We’re looking for improvement the whole time and how we do that is by looking after details day to day and we’re doing the boring things really well.”

But while the men in Black, Green and Gold are aiming to improve on their last campaign, Dowson is more than aware that the Gallagher Premiership is only going to be stronger this year.

“It’s going to be even more competitive, you see who London Irish have signed, you see the quality of some of their players like Stephen Myler who is already down there,” he said.

“You look at the number of signings Sale have made, some the South African internationals coming in, and they have a very strong squad but all of the teams will be strong.

“It’s not going to get any easier but what we have to do is focus on ourselves and make sure our home form is absolutely paramount to our success.”

Other fixtures that will catch the eye of Saints fans include blockbuster derby games against Midlands rivals Leicester Tigers and a post-Christmas clash against Gloucester Rugby.

The games against Tigers will come in Round 5 at Franklin’s Gardens and Round 20 at Welford Road – and Dowson is already relishing some of the battles that lie ahead for Saints.

“It’s always a massive derby day against Leicester Tigers and there’s a huge amount of history between the two sides, that should be enjoyed and encouraged,” he said.

“The derby week is certainly different in terms of environment and atmosphere and you always look for that on the calendar, find out when it is and make sure you’re ready.

“Sometimes the only other fixture you might look at is the last one of the season and the fixtures around Christmas and we have Gloucester and Wasps around Christmas.

“Those will be two big tests but Gloucester like to play and Northampton are always looking to create opportunities so it should be an exciting game.”

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