Falcons fly half Jonny Wilkinson has underlined the importance of Saturday's European Challenge Cup quarter-final against Castres, as Newcastle's last chance of silverware this season.
The 28-year-old starts at fly half as the Falcons aim to make a semi-final away at either Worcester or Montpellier, stating: "It's knockout rugby and it's the last chance we've got to lift something this season, which is ultimately what you're judged by.
"To have a trophy to show for our efforts and to achieve Heineken Cup rugby for next season would be huge for us, and the focus this week has been excellent going in to this one."
Having taken a bonus point away at in-form Premiership side Harlequins last weekend, the world record Test points scorer said: "We made strides in that game but it wasn't enough to get us the win, so we just need to continue along this route, push it forward and get the result on Saturday.
"The team spirit here is fantastic, the guys all love each other to bits and we have a huge amount of pride in striving to do well for the supporters who give us such great backing every time we play. That will never change."
With Steve Bates in his fourth game at the helm since taking over as acting director of rugby, Wilkinson said of his former Lord Wandsworth school teacher: "I have known Batesy for a very long time, he's an incredibly intelligent guy and an excellent coach who will do an amazing amount in terms of taking this club forward.
"That is not to take anything away from the previous coaching team which had a very good message and helped to develop a lot of our players, the thing now is just to get our heads down and improve as a team.
"We feel we're good enough to win this competition, and with Batesy in charge we know that everything we do every day in training and in the games has been thought of meticulously.
"He carries our best interests and strengths in everything he does. You can put the success of your career in his hands and it will be safe there. He looks after you as a player, knows what you are capable of and puts you in a position where you can achieve things."
Up against a Castres side rising up the French League over the past two months, Wilkinson said of Saturday's opponents: "We expect power, pace, physicality and a bit of the unknown, which are all great qualities you associate with French teams down the years.
"They have a lot of big ball carriers, and the thing that has stuck out from the tapes we have seen is that they have a team full of game breakers.
"The ultimate French quality is that you can go from a seemingly unthreatening situation to standing under your own posts in a matter of seconds, wondering what just happened, and we need to be aware of the fact that they have guys who can do that.
"It will be a tough game, and our mindset has to start from the very first whistle because we can't afford to give them the sort of head start we have done in some of our recent matches.
"There is pressure on us and a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of this team, but that will bring the best out of us.
"To grow as a player and as a person you need to go in to those uncomfortable areas. You need to go out there and get it right, and it is in that type of situation that you learn about yourself and about who the people are who are going to lead this team."
With atrocious playing conditions forecast and the potential for snow at the weekend, Wilkinson said: "We are implementing more of a structure to our game so that people know what's going on, and then out of that structure that's where flair can come more in to the equation rather than just playing from chaos.
"As a team we have always been good at playing from a structure that gives a lot of freedom to people, but with the weather the way it is we need to be a bit more pragmatic in our approach. We need to do the hard work, get ourselves going forward, and then from there we can do what we want to do with pace and creativity."
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.