London Welsh head coach Lyn Jones says December could be a decisive month in their Aviva Premiership survival battle.
Tenth-placed Welsh host fellow exiles London Irish, who are 11th, at the Kassam Stadium on Saturday (Dec 1, 1pm).
Then after two Amlin Challenge Cup fixtures, they visit ninth-placed Worcester Warriors on December 21 before Wasps, who lie eighth, come to Oxford after Christmas.
Welsh have made a promising start to life in the top flight, with three wins and 15 points from their first nine matches, and Jones knows how crucial these three clashes can be.
“December is a big month for everybody at the club,” he admitted.
“It can make our season overnight, but we are just relaxed and enjoying the experience of the Premiership.
“It is exciting to have all these top sides to test ourselves against.”
An added twist to Saturday’s match is that London Irish have traditionally been the senior partner in their relationship with Welsh.
Jones said: “We have been the junior club of the relationship over the years, borrowing players from them.
“We were fully expecting to do exactly the same this year, but then we won the Championship and got promotion.
“We are now rivalling them.”
Irish, who are four points behind Welsh, may now regret loaning them Romanian prop Paulica Ion this summer.
Tight-head Ion is on a season-long attachment and is expected to start at the Kassam Stadium on Saturday.
On the other hand, Oxford Uni-versity student Jamie Gibson is likely to feature as a flanker for Irish.
Looking ahead to the match, Jones said: “We are looking to field an unchanged side, which would be the first time we have done that this season.”
Jones has brought in experienced players such as Gavin Henson, currently sidelined by a back injury, Tom Voyce and Adam Balding this season and does not rule out further additions to the Welsh ranks.
“As any professional side, we are always looking to make signings, but only if the circumstances are right,” he saids.
* Exiles wing Dan Caprice has been cleared by an RFU disciplinary hearing after being cited for an alleged dangerous tackle on Northampton Saints’ Jamie Elliott.