Saints must have 'massive intent' every week as more big battles beckon

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Phil Dowson says Saints must have ‘massive intent’ every week as they continue on their run of crunch matches.

The black, green and gold booked their place in the Investec Champions Cup semi-finals last Saturday night as they beat Vodacom Bulls 59-22 at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

It was a third successive impressive win, following on from victories against Saracens and Munster.

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Saints have now won 13 of their past 14 competitive matches, but they face some stern tests in the weeks ahead as they host Leicester Tigers on Saturday before facing Harlequins at Twickenham and Leinster at Croke Park.

Phil Dowson (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)Phil Dowson (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Phil Dowson (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

And Dowson said: “We have to make sure we peak and trough at the right times, both in terms of the week and also week to week.

"We've got to make sure we don't end up flat at any point. We've still got to get the standards of what we're going after.

"Because we've given ourselves this opportunity, the playing group are excited about that and that gives us some momentum at the moment.

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"We know how quickly it can dissipate after what happened in the Bristol game.

"We've had some warnings this season so we need to make sure we're on it moving forward.

"We've got a really good understanding of what our game looks like.

"It's never going to be perfect but we've got an understanding of what we're trying to do in each scenario and we know what people will come after to try to stop us.

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"The more you get those performances on the pitch, the more people come after you.

"We know there's a big target on our backs but we know what our standards are and we need to train them appropriately and apply energy at the right time.

"We've got to have massive intent every weekend.”

Saints suffered a disappointing 26-17 defeat to Leicester at Mattioli Woods Welford Road back in November.

And ahead of this weekend’s sold-out clash at the Gardens, Dowson said: “We know we got dished up there last time, in November, so we need to make sure we're better this week.

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"The fact it is a big occasion, it's a massive game for both clubs, the place will be full and the level of expectation goes up so I think it's a fantastic fixture for the game and a fantastic thing for our players, to value that as a big occasion.”

Dowson believes this is the ideal fixture to focus the mind of his players after their European exploits.

He said: "It's why it's a great game to go into now because if you're not right, you going to get a hiding.

“It's a great one to focus the mind because the relationship between Leicester players and the Saints players at the England camp is close. There's obviously a bit of chat that goes back and forth so nobody wants to lose face on that front.

“The table is tight so we know what's at stake there.

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“We also know the fans are so into it and as soon as you get the fans into it and create an atmosphere, that gets the boys going.

“It will get Leicester going, coming here to a full house and they will be wanting to stick it to us as well.”

Dowson was involved in many derby-day battles as a player.

And when asked for his memories of them, he said: “The really tragic stat is that I never won at Welford Road. I got a draw there once.

"In 2011 we played in the semi-final there and it was the most brutal game I've ever played in.”

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Dowson joked: “Chris Ashton was often used as a punchbag back in those days so it wasn't all bad.

"It's a great derby and sometimes Saints are on top and others Tigers are on top.

“The town is always mad for it so the lads are excited about it. They've spoken about it, it's derby week and we know what's coming.”

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