Cool heads are the order of the day for Newcastle Falcons in Sunday’s basement battle with Worcester, says director of rugby Dean Richards.
The Warriors have just five games left to overturn the 12-point deficit between themselves and the Falcons at the bottom of the Premiership, having won none of their 17 league matches this season.
Newcastle are themselves winless since the end of October in the competition having equalled their worst ever Premiership losing streak, but both sides have shown improved performances in recent weeks.
Worcester were beaten only by the very last play of the night a week ago by London Wasps, Newcastle battling back from 30 points down to claim an unlikely pair of bonus points at Gloucester the day after.
Richards said: “If you look at the last five to six weeks with the ground firming up, we have played some outstanding rugby.
“We have got points where many people might not have expected us to, and we have scored tries.
“We have shown people we can actually play.”
Readying his troops for Sunday’s 2pm televised kick-off has included psychological as much as physical considerations, the former Leicester and Harlequins boss insisting: “One of the keys to it is being able to control your emotions.
“You need to go out there and go through the processes you want to go through, and play in the manner you want to play without letting the emotions or importance of the game get in your way.
“The situation and emotion of course is a part of it, but it is understanding we are not in the same boat as Worcester are.”
With the Warriors effectively in the last-chance saloon as regards their Premiership status, Richards added: “Sunday is massively important to us, but it is far more important to them. Of course Worcester will have a lot of intensity, and you have to match fire with fire. If we sit off in any way, shape or form and let them get their dander up then it is the wrong thing to do, and that is how we have to approach it.
“How we do that is not necessarily just through sheer physicality – it is through understanding how to play the game, playing in the right areas and negating their strengths. All those little bits and pieces are gone through in our game plan, but it is taking the sting out of their tail.
“It will be a bruising encounter, and the boys are looking forward to it.”
Paying full respect to Sunday’s visitors, whom the Falcons defeated 16-11 when the two teams met at Sixways in October, he added: “Worcester have been very unfortunate in some ways to miss out on a couple of results, but they are a good side.
“On paper they have a huge amount of experience, and in that respect you can’t take them lightly. They are looking for a first win of the season, we don’t want to give it to them and we will go out there to make sure it doesn’t happen.” Richards will name his starting XV later today, which could see Scottish scrum-half Mike Blair dropped down to the bench on the day a new arrival in that position is set to be confirmed for next season.
Phil Godman is tipped to retain his starting fly-half spot, while a chest injury to captain Will Welch could put the flanker’s involvement in doubt.
“The crowd plays a massive part up here,” said Richards, hopeful of a big gate.
“Assuming we get a big crowd, which it is looking like we might, we are looking forward to that great atmosphere.”