Northampton's flanker exclusively tells Sky Sports that he thought an England call-up might elude him
By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter: @SkysportsTC
Last Updated: 13/01/12 9:01am
Northampton back-rower Phil Dowson has moved closer to finally shaking off the tag of being England's best uncapped flanker.
The 30-year-old has so often being around the fringes of the full England squad, but despite his sparkling form for the Saints he has been harshly overlooked.
England assistant coach Graham Rowntree even admitted that the previous regime had "always talked about 'Dows'" with regards to his possible inclusion.
The talk never materialised into a full cap, though, with Dowson having had to settle for call ups to the Saxons or representative games (including against the NZ Maori in 2010).
However that is about to end after the former Newcastle forward earned his place in England's elite player squad for the forthcoming RBS Six Nations.
And Dowson, one of nine uncapped players in Stuart Lancaster's first squad, admitted that he had thought that his international chances could have passed him by.
Speaking exclusively to Sky Sports, Dowson said: "There were days when I thought this wasn't going to happen, so it was amazing to get the phone call from Lanny.
"There are five other really good players in the squad, though, so there is still plenty of work to do.
"There are a lot of good uncapped back rows out there so it is always nice to get the opportunity to be in the mix.
"I hit 30 in October and it was a case of 'if not now, then when', so to be involved is amazing."
Dowson is joined in the squad by fellow Northampton back rows Tom Wood and Calum Clark, Harlequins captain Chris Robshaw, Leicester's Tom Croft and highly-rated Scarlets No.8 Ben Morgan.
And although England lack the likes of a Richie McCaw or David Pocock in the No.7 jersey, Dowson is impressed with the versatility of the back-row.
"I think Stuart and Graham are keeping their options open," Dowson said.
"Tom Wood can play six or seven, as can Calum Clark and Tom Croft. I can play six, seven or eight along with Chris Robshaw, so there is a lot of versatility in there.
"There's perhaps not that out-and-out seven in there or No.8 other than young Ben Morgan but we have got six very good players who can step up.
"Calum has played a lot at seven and has been outstanding, while Tom Wood can play there comfortably as well. I can play at seven if required although it is not my strongest positions I can do a job there but I prefer to be at six or eight."
Following the World Cup debacle and the departure of Martin Johnson, Wednesday's announcement at West Park Leeds RUFC was the start of a new era for England rugby.
As well as Dowson, Joe Marler, Clark, Morgan, Rob Webber, Brad Barritt, Lee Dickson, Owen Farrell and Jordan Turner-Hall are looking to win their first caps.
And Dowson is looking forward to seeing scrum-half Dickson, his team-mate from Franklin's Gardens, in action in an England shirt.
"Lee Dickson has been in superb form for Northampton over the past few seasons so it is exciting to see how he adapts to the step up to international level," he added.
"I know Lee really well as we played at Newcastle together as well so I have seen how hard he has worked for this and the way he has come back from injuries."
Phil Dowson was talking to skysports.com at the presentation of the December Gatorade Game Changer award. Gatorade is an official performance partner of Premiership Rugby.