Dowson's position of choice is as a number 8 and he can also operate as a flanker. In 2004 he was a member of Falcons’ Powergen Cup winning side at Twickenham, scoring a try after coming on as a replacement in the final.
Dowson signed for the Northampton Saints from the Newcastle Falcons in the summer of 2009. In 2012, Dowson gained his first full international cap for England vs Scotland in the Six Nations. A further cap against Italy as well as substitute appearances against France and Ireland.
He was named as England captain for England's next match, although it was a non capped match, against the Barbarians which England went on to win 57–26.