Dean Richards admits the Premiership relegation race could go right down to the wire as Newcastle Falcons battle to avoid the drop.
With just three games to go Newcastle still enjoy a seven-point cusion on Worcester Warriors, who travel to Bath on Saturday.
Newcastle have a home date with runaway league leaders Saracens the following afternoon, potentially benefiting from the fact Sarries have already secured a home play-off berth and could well be resting players for their Heineken Cup semi-final with Clermont the weekend after.
Nonetheless, Richards was not dismissing the threat from a rejuvenated Worcester side when asked if it could go down to the final day.
The former Harlequins and Leicester boss said: “It might do, I don’t know.
“Worcester have two very difficult games in Bath and Saracens away, so it depends what they take out of those two.
“We have Saracens at home, Wasps away and then Exeter at home, and we will have to see.”
The Falcons will have to improve on their first-half offering at London Irish, where they shipped three tries inside 15 minutes and a further three before the break.
Highlighting the humiliation of letting down the club’s travelling supporters as a small but vocal band of Newcastle fans endured a torrid afternoon at the Madejski Stadium, Richards added: “Our supporters were fantastic, and that is another reason why it was such an embarrassing day for us.
“I don’t think the players gave enough credit to the supporters or did them justice and we were dead and buried by half-time.”
Richards said: “The boys had trained well all week, had a good journey down and seemed pretty switched-on for it.
“You have to marry that against the fact London Irish had nothing to lose, and they were going to throw the ball around whatever. In conceding the first three tries through our own mistakes we started chasing the game and it is about having that clinical edge to just be able to control your exit strategy and get the field position you want to.
“We were very poor at that.”
Hoping to be bolstered by some returning bodies for the Easter Sunday clash, the director of rugby said: “Saracens will be difficult opposition, as everybody knows. We should have two of the boys back, and it was nice to see Dom Barrow back out on the field at London Irish.
“I thought Sinoti Sinoti showed his class. We will see whether Gonzalo Tiesi is back, we have three front-row forwards out and we might get a couple of boys back for Sunday.
“That is not the point. The point is how you enter into the game and there was a distinct lack of focus and attention to detail at London Irish.
“Some of the boys seem to think they are safe already and I don’t think you can afford to think that in any way, shape or form.”
Meanwhile, top players from the women’s game will form the curtain-raiser to Sunday’s clash at Kingston Park when a Falcons Ladies XV side takes on a Saracens equivalent on the main pitch at noon.
England Women’s caps Katy McLean and Tamara Taylor will coach the combined XV which includes players from Darlington Mowden Park, Novos, Carlisle, Sheffield and the universities of Northumbria, Teesside and Durham.
There will also be a women’s sevens tournament from 11am at the adjacent Bullocksteads ground, home to Northumbria University.