Declan Danaher admits there is no bigger or better stage to test his theory that London Irish can put last season’s struggles behind them than the London Double Header at Twickenham.
The Exiles found the going tough last season as they lingered perilously close to the Aviva Premiership relegation zone for most of the campaign, pulling away to finish ninth in the closing stages.
What’s more this summer saw a host of big names fly the Madejski Stadium nest with the likes of British & Irish Lions hero Alex Corbisiero joining Northampton Saints, Jamie Gibson moving to Leicester Tigers and Jonathan Joseph, Anthony Watson and Matt Garvey all going to Bath Rugby.
However, despite this exodus, club captain Danaher, who is entering his 15th season with London Irish, is keeping the faith that the Exiles can climb up the ladder rather than look over their shoulder.
London Irish face Saracens in the first clash of the London Double Header at Twickenham on Saturday, and Danaher said: "We're looking no further than Christmas and we'll try and be top six at Christmas and after that we'll reassess where we are.
"But at the moment we're just focusing on that first game because that was where we let ourselves down last year. I'm massively looking forward to it. I always like coming to Twickenham.
“It's a big game and I think we'll know a lot more about ourselves after that 80 minutes. It's brilliant, there's no pressure on you. Technically it's a home fixture but there's no pressure on you.
“And if you can't get a buzz out of playing in front of 50,000 to 60,000 people then I suppose you're in the wrong game.”
Despite his confident outlook, the history books don’t make kind reading for London Irish as they have won just one of their last six London Double Header games.
They have also tasted victory just once in their last eight visits to Twickenham, this coming against Saturday’s opponents Sarries in the 2010 season opener.
Saracens lost on their most recent visit to Rugby HQ – going down 24-12 to Toulon in last season’s Heineken Cup semi-final – while their London Double Header record reads four wins and five losses.
Mark McCall’s men have won two of the last three London Double Header clashes against the Exiles however, after London Irish ended Sarries’ four-game winning streak in February last season, he is fully aware of the threat Saturday’s opponents pose to his side.
“We’ve had mixed results at Twickenham over the last couple seasons, losing to Wasps two years ago and then beating London Irish last year,” said Saracens director of rugby McCall.
“I think we might be getting London Irish at the wrong time because they’ve got a very good starting XV and a bench as well.
“Potentially the depth of their squad might not be as good as some others but that won’t be a problem until a month down the line or so, so they’ll be very motivated to do well.”
(Twickenham Stadium, 2pm)
Live on BT Sport
Referee: Greg Garner (50th Premiership game)
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton & Ashley Rowden. TMO: Graham Hughes
The London Double Header returns to Twickenham on 7 September with two crucial Aviva Premiership Rugby matches: London Irish v Saracens followed by London Wasps v Harlequins. Tickets from ticketmaster.co.uk