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'We failed': Northampton coach's stark admission after Ulster defeat

By PA
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Northampton forwards coach Phil Dowson insisted Northampton would not give up on their Heineken Champions Cup campaign despite being left with a mountain to climb by a 24-20 defeat to Ulster at Franklin’s Gardens.

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Dowson was standing in on the day for director of rugby Chris Boyd, who this week was suspended for two matches following ill-advised comments about a referee in an earlier game.

The defeat left Northampton with just two points from their three European fixtures, with only an away game at Racing 92 to come in the pool stage.

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The result also marred a special day for Courtney Lawes, who was making his 250th appearance for the club and was replaced with 15 minutes to play.

Dan Biggar and Rory Hutchinson scored Northampton’s tries. Biggar kicked two penalties and a conversion, with George Furbank also adding a two-pointer.

Dowson said: “You never say never but it will be a tough ask at Racing, but we will make a tough run at it.

“It was frustrating to concede early as it left us with a mountain to climb. We left ourselves with too much to do to get back into it.

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“Courtney was winded earlier in the game, but he was exhausted and he’s experienced enough to tell us when he’s done, so we brought on some fresh legs.

“We wanted to make it a big day for him, but we failed on that account as we didn’t quite manage it.

“Crucially, all our European games have seen us start poorly. There are big lessons for our squad to learn, but they are young and ambitious.”

In contrast, Ulster were buoyant as they secured qualification with a bonus-point victory. Man of the match Mike Lowry scored two tries, with Robert Baloucoune and Nathan Doak also on the scoresheet. Doak added two conversions.

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A feature of Ulster’s win was the impressive performances of their back three – full-back Lowry and wings Baloucoune and Ethan Mcllroy – who caused Saints no end of problems with their elusive running.

Director of rugby Dan McFarland said: “These youngsters are at a time in their career when they believe they are invincible and they are able to produce some magic moments.

“We always knew it was going to be tough as Saints are a fantastic side and we knew our defence had to be top notch.

“We found it difficult to break them down and now we have to face a difficult task at home to Clermont next week.

“They are a very physical side with hard-hitting ball carriers, so it won’t be easy.”

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Shaylen 2 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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J
Jon 8 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
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