Saracens star Georgia Evans knows her side will have to be on top of their game ahead of their top of the table clash with Harlequins in the Allianz Premier 15s this weekend.
There are just six points separating the two sides heading into Saturday’s affair, and with this being the first time the pair have come up against each other this season, there is more riding on this one than ever.
Sarries are riding high at the top of the table after another eye-catching victory over Exeter Chiefs last time out, having come back from an 11-point half-time deficit to win 34-21 at StoneX Stadium, with Lotte Clapp and Vicky Fleetwood among the tries after the break to complete the turnaround.
And Evans believes the momentum of that victory will help her side going into the clash with their nearest challengers, with all eyes on the clash between the top two this weekend.
“We’ve come off a big win at the weekend, and this is the one that everyone looks forward to, and the fact that we haven’t played them yet and we’re so far into the season has made the excitement build,” said Evans, who has been called up to Wales’ Women’s Six Nations squad.
“It’s massive, because the way that the season has gone has been so competitive with both of us facing losses throughout the season, so this is the pivotal match of the season.
“They’re a big physical pack, and they’re very similar to ourselves and very good at playing us at our own game.
“Their driving mauls are fantastic, they like to run over the top of us and then unleash their speedy backs, and you’ve always got to expect the unexpected this season.
“It does come down to the wire with Quins and it’s so competitive in this league now that it does come down to the fine points, and we’ve seen what Quins can do and it’s all about being squeaky clean and putting as many points on the board as possible.”
Both sides come into the game on the back of winning streaks, with Sarries unbeaten in their last three having rebounded from defeat to Wasps in February, while Quins have won each of their previous four matches.
It will be the first time that Evans has come up against her side’s familiar foes, having made the switch to the English game from Pontyclun Falcons last summer.
The back-rower has made a seamless adaptation to life with the Premier 15s champions, with her industry and tenacity seeing her slot straight into the side, although she admits it wasn’t all plain sailing after making the move.
“Moving to the Prem was a big change, essentially a culture shock in the sense that it is all set up so professionally and the training is fantastic and expectations are so high,” she said.
“It’s great for me to go to Saracens and really test myself and push myself with all the international girls and girls from all over the world and learning how they all play.
“I’ve really enjoyed it and it’s been a change that I’m so glad that I got the chance to make.
“I can’t take anything away from the girls at Pontyclun they were fantastic, but the main difference at Saracens is the level of competition and the drive.
“In England there’s so many girls fighting for one position, and we’ve really got to challenge each other to be the best.”
With five Wales caps to her name, Evans is just one of a number of international stars among the Saracens’ ranks, with head coach Alex Austerberry having a wealth of talent at his disposal every week.
And she admits the calibre of her teammates in training each day has only spurred her on to make her a better player, having only first picked up a rugby ball at the age of 16 when she was studying at Yeovil College in Somerset.
Now only 24, Evans has enjoyed a formidable rise in a short space of time, and still feels there is room to learn even more from her esteemed company in the changing rooms.
“A big thing for me is being around the likes of Poppy Cleall, Marlie Packer and Vicky Fleetwood, these girls who have been instrumental in the English game,” Evans said.
“You see the difference between them and the Welsh game and being around them as a back-row player has helped me and pushed me to focus on the fine details and shone a light on things I didn’t realise I had to work on.
“Week to week I definitely feel my game is getting stronger, and I feel that I’ve come very far and even to be able to compete in this league is mind-blowing to me.
“It’s a bit of a crazy journey when I think of it, I think in the space of four years I’ve managed to climb my way through and get my first cap, and it was a really quick step up.”