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Dowson preparations not eye-deal

Northampton flanker Phil Dowson geared up for his landmark 200th Aviva Premiership appearance with two days in an eye patch and three trips to an ophthalmologist.

The 32-year-old loose-forward took an accidental poke in the eye at the bottom of a ruck in his 199th league outing, a stubborn 22-16 victory over former club Newcastle Falcons on Sunday, February 23.

Dowson's mother drove him back home after the Kingston Park clash and he spent the following week convalescing, his pirate-style first aid an easy target for team-mates.

After a week without training, Dowson captained Northampton to a 39-13 home victory over Gloucester in Dylan Hartley's Six Nations absence, to restore Saints' lead at the top of the Premiership table.

"You don't want to think about milestones too much, just hopefully go past them without issue," seven-cap England back-rower Dowson told Press Association Sport.

"I had an eye problem against Newport a couple of weeks ago but that got sorted quite quickly, but then I got a scratch in the other eye in the Newcastle game.

"I then had two days in a patch, so I couldn't drive, so my mum had to drive me back from Newcastle.

"I saw the specialist on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, just to make sure it had all healed.

"They were happy with it on Friday and I was given the all-clear.

"It was just randomly a finger in there at the bottom of a ruck, there are always all sorts of arms and legs and things flying around in there s o it was just an accident.

"You get all sorts of odd things you have to do to recover from injury, but the eye patch went down well in the team meeting. T here was plenty of material for the lads to abuse me with.

"Obviously you'd rather train, in my own mind I'd rather have done all the sessions.

"You sit down with Christian Day and talk about line-outs, you sit down with Stephen Myler, but at the end of the day you'd still rather get out there and do it for real on the training pitch."

Joining the Premiership's exalted 200 club hardly seemed possible when Dowson had pioneering and career-saving neck surgery in 2005.

The then-Newcastle Falcon had a synthetic disc inserted into his neck, saving him from almost-certain premature retirement.

Former England duo Mark Cueto and Mike Tindall hit 200 league appearances in the last fortnight, but Dowson is confident that mark will become increasingly commonplace in the advancing professional era.

"I think more and more players will do that with time, you see Alex Waller with us has already played 104 and he's only 24," said Dowson.

"Loads of guys will get there but you've got to be lucky with injury.

"The physios and medical staff at the club have been awesome too, and at Newcastle as well.

"I haven't missed many games through international rugby either, as much as you'd love to.

"So you're there week on week and still getting selected, and I've been very lucky with that.

"I've been lucky with injury as well, save a couple at Newcastle.

"That neck problem could have been it for me i f it wasn't for Rob Andrew's perseverance at the time, giving me the chance to play on and a couple of years to prove myself.

"And that's the difference, some other players maybe aren't afforded that, and it's all down to luck really."

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