David Paice is adamant victory against Cardiff Blues this weekend will not only kick London Irish’s season back into life, but also keep their hopes of European silverware alive.
Five straight Aviva Premiership Rugby defeats on the bounce saw the Exiles enter the second block of European fixtures low on confidence.
A 24-14 defeat at Cardiff Blues on Saturday then put them four points adrift of the Pool 1 leaders, but Brian Smith’s side welcome the Welshmen back to the Madejski Stadium this weekend.
And former England hooker Paice insists beating the Blues can set them back on the right path in Europe and in Aviva Premiership Rugby.
“Cardiff is a tough place to go,” he said. “They are chock-a-block full of British Lions and internationals and not many teams win at their home patch.
“We know it’s going to be a very tough game this weekend but we need to win it. If we lose this game it is pretty much going to be very, very tough to get out of the group.
“We are going to treat this game like a final. We need the crowd to really get behind us. When it’s a must-win game a lot of the players will find it really enjoyable.
“With the teams not dropping down from the Champions Cup, unlike the last couple of years, it gives people in the Challenge Cup a really good chance to win it. It is a huge competition and we are really going to go for it this week.
“We started off the season very well and picked up a couple of good wins. We dropped off in November but we have still got a lot of confidence in the team’s ability.
“We have got a great bunch of guys here and everyone is very confident in their ability. If we get that first win, we trust our system and our phase play and our set piece.”
And Paice believes the return to fitness of full-back Tom Homer after a three-month lay-off – following an injury-plagued campaign last season – has boosted the entire squad.
He added: “I’m very happy for Tom – he has been very unlucky in the last couple of years. He looked very good and very sharp in Cardiff and back to his best.
“It also brings a lot of energy back and the enthusiasm rubs off on everyone. It has been a shame to see him get injured and be out of the game for so long.”
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