Saracens skipper Lou Horgan admits Sunday's crunch encounter with leaders Richmond will make or break the champions' season.
Horgan scored a try in Sarries’ 13-13 draw with their London rivals earlier in the season but despite both teams boasting unbeaten records it is Richmond who lead the way courtesy of their attacking bonus points.
Saracens have dominated the league in recent years but have struggled to come to terms with the departure of England centre pairing Rachel Burford and Claire Allen across the capital.
And Horgan, whose side trail Richmond by eight points with a game in hand, concedes Saracens will have to get used to their new-found status as underdogs.
“This season has been an awful lot tougher for us than the last three or four years but that’s something we need to adjust to,” said Horgan, who is expected to feature for Wales during the RBS 6 Nations.
“If we don’t beat Richmond next week then that’s our season over.
“They have done very well picking up the bonus points and they have really benefited from signing our former players.
“Considering how many players we have lost we have done very well.”
Saracens have suffered a further blow with the exit of Canadian international scrum-half Julia Suguwara who has returned to North America in preparation for the 2010 World Cup
With so many departures from last year’s title-winning team, Saracens have been able to blood several youngsters and Welsh international Horgan says that is the one silver lining of a difficult season.
She added: “April Brown has come in at fly-half and has done exceptionally well to replace Karen Andrews who was a big part of this team. She left a massive void but April has really stepped up.
“Rebecca Bushall will also been given a chance to come in for Julia at scrum-half.
“This season was always going to be difficult for us but we are building for the future.”