Dowson backs soon-to-be Saints centurion Furbank to return to England picture

George Furbank made his first appearance of the season last Saturday (photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)
George Furbank made his first appearance of the season last Saturday (photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)

And the Saints boss believes the success of the black, green and gold can play a big part in helping the talented back to do that.

Furbank is set to make his 100th appearance for Saints when Bath come calling at cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday.

The 26-year-old is a mainstay of the Northampton team, shining at full-back and fly-half.

And Dowson believes Furbank has every chance of adding to his five England caps in future.

"He's played at fly-half for England, which shows how good he is, how adaptable he is and how classy he is because he's one of those players who has time on the ball and creates space others," Dowson said. "There's always space for that in international rugby at the moment.

"He's been in and around that international mixer, he wants to get back there and there's every opportunity if he keeps doing what he's doing.

"What aids that is Northampton Saints playing well and winning games because it's easier to get picked for England if you're top of the league.

"If we start playing well that will be because he's playing well, and if he's playing well you'd like to think Steve Borthwick would have a look at him and give him an opportunity if that arrives.

"I'm well aware that in Freddie Steward they have someone who has very solid attributes, ball in the air particularly, but you can never have too many good players and you can never have too many of those knocking on your door."

Furbank joined Saints' Senior Academy in 2016 and went on to make his debut in November 2017, marking the occasion against Exeter Chiefs in the Anglo-Welsh Cup with a try.

He made 18 appearances in his breakthrough season during 2018/19 as he helped Saints reach the knock-out stages of every competition – starting in the European Challenge Cup quarter-final against Clermont Auvergne, and the Premiership Rugby Cup final victory in 2019 that saw Northampton claim a first piece of silverware in five seasons.

He cemented his place in Saints’ starting line-up in 2019/20, earning him a call-up to the England squad, with his Test debut against France in the 2020 Six Nations following.

After reaching 50 appearances for Saints in 2020/21, Furbank earned an England recall to feature against Canada in the summer, before starting at fly-half against Tonga in the 2021 Autumn Nations Series.

And now he gets set for another special moment in his career as he reaches the 100-appearance milestone for Saints.

"It was Moony's (Alex Moon) 100th last weekend and it's Furbs' this weekend, and that's nice because they've come through the system and they're playing for their local club," Dowson said.

"They're playing with lads they've played with for a long time so for team dynamics, it's really positive.

"It shows the investment in the Academy is paying off.

"Furbs as an individual is getting better and better, and this season particularly he's come in with a different mindset to really push himself and those around him on.

"I've been nothing but impressed.

"He's always had a high skill level, he's always been able to read the game, but his application across all areas of the club has been really strong.

"He's turned into a really good leader and I've been nothing but impressed with his journey and his attitude."

Furbank and several others really came to the fore following the arrival of Chris Boyd as boss back in the summer of 2018.

And Dowson, who became forwards coach at that point, said: "They got opportunity and they took that opportunity.

"You look at someone like (George) Hendy following in those footsteps and (Henry) Pollock, Archie McParland and Reuben Logan behind that - it's the whole pathway really.

"It's what the club's foundation is. The highest percentage of Academy players playing first-team rugby is Saints and that is the plan.

"They're the guys we want to have at the club, keep at the club and build the club around."