Harlequins lock George Robson insists the club’s domestic and European campaigns hinge on the “Big Game Six” against Exeter at Twickenham today.
A crowd of 70,000 is expected for the annual Christmas fixture hosted by Quins as the rivals for a place in the top four of the Premiership do battle.
The game continues a run of three key league matches for Quins that started with defeat at Bath last weekend and concludes at Northampton next Friday. Once those domestic duties have been dealt with, French heavyweights Clermont visit Twickenham Stoop in a critical Heineken Cup showdown before the pool ends against Scarlets.
The season has yet to hit the midway point, but Robson stresses the stakes are already high in every match. “A lot of stuff gets decided at this time of year,” the second row said.
“You need to come out of this period well positioned for the run-in. We’re on a run of several hugely physical games. You don’t spend as much time bashing each other up on the training pitch – it’s the different challenge of making sure you’re mentally right.”
Robson is one of six players to have appeared in all five Big Games at Twickenham alongside Danny Care, Mike Brown, Nick Evans, Chris Robshaw and Nick Easter.
“We definitely respond to these matches being at Twickenham,” Robson said.
“Never mind the cliche that every match is the same, there is something special about playing in front of a big crowd at the home of English rugby.”
Quins, Exeter and champions Leicester are currently tussling for the fourth of the Premiership’s play-off places with a six-point gap having opened up behind Bath in third. The Tigers are reeling from their shock 49-10 defeat at Saracens last Saturday, a result that forced them down to sixth. Full-back Mathew Tait, who makes his second appearance on his comeback from an ankle injury at Sale on Saturday, insists the Sharks and Bath a week later must be dispatched to stay in contention.
“The guys know we’re better than that performance against Saracens. The feeling of that defeat has been bottled,” Tait said. “Now we have to regroup. We have home games against Sale and Bath and we need to win those to keep us up in the mix.”