Newcastle Falcons hope to welcome a record European crowd to Kingston Park on Saturday for their European Challenge Cup quarter-final against Castres Olympique.
The Falcons set a new club record with the 7,426 crowd which watched them beat Connacht Rugby 39-0 in the Pool stages back in December, but having reached the last eight England's most northerly Premiership team hopes to set a new mark for the second time this season.
The Falcons enjoy the remarkable record of never having lost to a French side at Kingston Park, but, after a difficult three weeks for the club following the departures by mutual consent of Director of Rugby John Fletcher and forwards coach Peter Walton, any win will do.
Defeats to Bristol Rugby and Leeds Carnegie marked a downbeat start to interim director of rugby Steve Bates' time at the helm, but encouraging signs emerged in Saturday's 15-9 defeat to English Premiership form horses Harlequins.
"Our defence was outstanding at the weekend in taking a bonus point away from our visit to Harlequins," said Bates, the former England scrum half who rejoined the Falcons backroom staff from Border Reivers over the summer, originally as coaching and technical director.
"What we need to add on top of that defensive effort is more of a tactical appreciation in our attacking play, but the attitude of the players has been very good and we know that it will come in time given the quality of the work we are doing in training."
With Castres lying in wait for this weekend's Saturday night showdown, Bates said of his French opponents: "We have watched them a lot on tape this season, and we know they are a quality side.
"In Mark McCall they have an excellent coach, someone I know well, and their record in the French Top 14 demonstrates just what a capable side they are, having won nine of their 16 league games to date.
"Like ourselves they suffered a narrow defeat at the weekend, losing by five points at home to Montpellier, and we know they will be keen to turn that result around."
With the European Challenge Cup being the Falcons' only remaining chance of silverware this season, Bates was at pains to highlight the importance of the competition, stating: "This game is huge for us.
"As well as obviously being a big match in front of a sizeable home crowd, it represents the chance for us to reach the semi-finals of a European competition.
"In addition to the obvious benefit of Heineken Cup qualification through the European Challenge Cup, the chance to deliver some silverware to the Newcastle fans is an enormous incentive for us after the support they have given us this season, and we will certainly be going hard at this game."
While Bates can boast England stars Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood among his number for Saturday's game, he will have to wait to hear if fellow Test backs Mathew Tait and Jamie Noon can also feature.
Tait took a knock in Saturday's defeat at Harlequins and will require a test later this week, while Noon is recovering from a shin injury sustained at Leeds Carnegie two weeks ago.
As part of the build-up to next month's Cardiff 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals weekend, ERC has joined forces with the WRU, Cardiff Blues and adidas to develop an annual grassroots community rugby programme targeting young players.
The Ulster Rugby full back, Jared Payne (No 15), has been suspended for two (2) weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin arising from the Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Saracens at Ravenhill Stadium on Saturday, 5 April.