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Blair Cowan gearing up for biggest London Irish test yet

Blair Cowan has been involved in Championship promotion showdowns, Six Nations battles and even a Rugby World Cup quarter-final.

But the London Irish flanker admits this weekend’s Aviva Premiership Rugby clash with Newcastle Falcons is one of the biggest matches of his career.

With both sides propping up the Aviva Premiership table, victory for one will strike a monumental blow to the other in the battle to avoid bottom place.

Newcastle are ahead by four points, but arguably the Exiles are the side in the better form and they only narrowly went down to Harlequins in their European Challenge Cup quarter-final last weekend.

And with both teams desperate for victory, Cowan believes the game will be a fantastic spectacle.

“Both sides will have had the importance of this game in the back of their minds for some time now,” he said.

“I don’t think other results will matter too much heading into this one, as everyone knows we are fighting for our livelihoods.

“This is our life we are playing for, our families. It’s all or nothing on the line this weekend, so I think both sides are going to come out hot – I wouldn’t expect anything less from them.

“We’re going to do the same; it’s going to be a great battle and a great spectacle for the sport.

“I’ve of course played in some amazing games – the World Cup quarter-final against Australia for one was pretty tense – but this is a different level of intensity.

“It’s a survival battle, all or nothing, so it will definitely be up there with the most important games of my life.”

Discipline cost London Irish against Harlequins, as they squandered a 12-point advantage with half an hour remaining, getting penalised repeatedly while David Paice was also sent to the sin bin.

But Cowan insists that is an area where the Exiles have made big strides forward in recent weeks, and is looking only at the positives ahead of their biggest game of the season so far.

He said: “Getting yellow cards at crucial points of the game is always going to make life hard, but we did manage to get a try when we were a man down against Quins.

“In the grand scheme of things though the momentum swung there and it is another lesson for us to take away in terms of seeing how important those penalties can be.

“I don’t think it’s something we are guilty of regularly. In our recent games we have performed really well from that respect and our penalty count has been low as it is something we’ve really worked on.

“Especially around the set-piece we’ve really started to swing that tide, so we won’t be focusing on the Harlequins game too much.

“Everyone has come in this week with a bit of positivity, there’s a lot of competition for places which is good and that is the sort of thing we need heading into a big game like this.”

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