Saints 'managing energy and intensity' ahead of Premiership play-off semi-final

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Phil Dowson has outlined how Saints have been approaching the period of more than three weeks between league games as they look forward to a play-off semi-final next weekend.

The black, green and gold were hugely impressive 66-5 winners at Newcastle Falcons on April 21.

That, coupled with London Irish's defeat at Saracens two days later, secured Saints' place in the end-of-season shootout.

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They beat Leicester Tigers 64-24 in a friendly at cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens last Saturday but have a bye on the final weekend of the Premiership season.

Phil DowsonPhil Dowson
Phil Dowson

That means they will go more than three weeks without league action, so Dowson has had to come up with a strategy.

And the Saints boss said: "We've got to be mindful of managing energy and intensity in a three-week period without a league game.

"We had a good intensity spike last week against Leicester where it was full on, this week we're really focusing on ourselves and getting things better in terms of our game and next week we'll fine-tune and focus on Saracens and making sure we're aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their game."

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Saracens, who are all but guaranteed to be Saints' semi-final opponents, will finish their regular-season campaign at Bath on Saturday.

And Dowson is likely to watch that game at home.

He said: "I'll watch some games this weekend, clearly I'll watch the Saracens game and whatever is on TV if I haven't got the kids."

Saints used last weekend's match against Leicester to say goodbye to some long-serving stars who were playing their final match at the Gardens.

The likes of David Ribbans, Tom Collins and Mike Haywood were given emotional send-offs.

But those men still have a big job to do this season.

"The game served a couple of purposes," Dowson said.

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"It was an occasion for players leaving and that was brilliant because the fans' reaction to a lot of those players was outstanding. Staying around to wish them well really showed where the club is and how highly the players value that support.

"And also, because we haven't got a game during the three weeks, it was an opportunity for us to get some proper game time, feel and fitness and game involvement so that was important as well. There's no substitute for playing games.

"Clearly injury was one of the risks and we had some knocks, some bumps and bruises so we took those guys out.

"But we felt that three weeks was too long to not have a game and that element of conditioning.

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"Also, we wanted to give guys the best opportunity to show what they were capable of in terms of selection for the game.

"There were risks but we knew we had two weeks after the game to recover from smaller injuries and knocks and bumps so we made that choice fully in the knowledge we wanted to get some game time into the lads."