London Irish are yet to secure an Aviva Premiership Rugby double over any of their rivals so far this season, but flanker Blair Cowan admits there would be no better time than this weekend against Newcastle Falcons.
The Scottish 29-year-old and his teammates currently sit bottom of the Aviva Premiership pile, but victory at Kingston Park on Sunday could see them leapfrog their northern rivals.
Irish have won just once in the last eight rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby – 23-18 at home to Gloucester in Round 17 – but have won their last four league encounters against the Falcons.
And Cowan insists that the Exiles will look to come out all guns blazing, as they did in their 20-15 triumph in Round 9.
“We’ve addressed the elephant in the room and the importance of this game,” he said. “Of course there is a harsh reality to face if we lose, but it’s not something everyone needs to be reminded about.
“Everyone knows their roles, and we’ve also got the luxury of having a 4G pitch just 100 metres from our changing rooms so we can go and get used to playing on that surface. Little things like that are really going to help going into the game.
“The key will be to get off to a flying start like we did against them at home, and then not let off at all and slowly build the momentum throughout the match.
“We’ve put in some great 60-minute performances but then let some games go in the last 20 and lost bonus points at critical moments.
“So we need a really mature, clinical performance out there. We know they like to drive with their forwards, and they’ve started to play a lot more this year with some handy ball carriers like [Nili] Latu.
“So we’ve got to make sure our defence is watertight and really back our systems – once everyone is on the same page we are a very good team.”
Falcons meanwhile have lost their last six Aviva Premiership Rugby matches since beating Northampton Saints by a single point at Kingston Park.
The Falcons have lost their last two home matches, but they have not lost three in succession at the venue since 2014.
And despite their poor record of late against the Exiles, Newcastle skipper Will Welch is adamant the importance of the occasion will see his side rise to the challenge.
He said: “I don’t think that matters; the match is a stand alone, records go out of the window.
“Irish have not been playing too badly of late. But we just focus on ourselves, and on trying to get on the front foot, to get the basics right and from there we can do some damage.
“We can’t afford to look at them too much – we need to get our own house in order.
“Every week we are doing good stuff – against Quins we played some really good rugby. But the little things take the wind out of our sails.”
Kingston Park, 3pm – Live on BT Sport
Referee: Wayne Barnes (167th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan & Paul Burton. TMO: Graham Hughes.