ANDY KEY has challenged his Leeds Carnegie side to win six to eight of their remaining 13 games to ensure Premiership survival.
Leeds have lost all nine of their top-flight games so far and are seven-points adrift of second-bottom Newcastle Falcons who they meet in the rearranged fixture at Kingston Park this afternoon.
Key is setting his side a win-target of nearly 50 per cent, but having seen his side manage five wins from this position last season in their successful fight against the drop, he is confident they can do so again.
"The beauty of this division is that any side can beat any side on their day," said Leeds's director of rugby, whose belief stems from convincing performances in back-to-back wins over Italian side Crociati Rugby in Europe's Amlin Challenge Cup.
"A side turning up thinking they just have to turn up are massively wrong. Season-on-season the side who will win the competition will probably lose eight games.
"To make sure we survive we have to win six to eight games, but we believe that is in us."
Following the Newcastle game, Leeds host Gloucester on New Year's Day and then travel to Bath on January 8. They also have to play leaders Northampton twice as well as Saracens away and Leicester at home, but with two games to come against Newcastle, plus a trip to Sale and home date with Exeter, Key remains steadfast in his belief that Leeds still have their destiny in their own hands.
"The one thing you always want is to be in control of your own destiny, and there is an element of that this week," he said. "We are playing the team that are 11th, it's a bit of dejavu from last year when we played Bath at home (January 2). Everybody talked of that as the relegation game, but we finished 10th and could have finished ninth. Bath finished fourth.
"A season is 22 games. We know where we are, our game is in good shape, and the players are understanding of how to play 80 minutes of rugby. We've learnt a lot of lessons over the nine Premiership games, Europe came at the right time and we are ready to get back to the Premiership."
Putting those lessons to good use will be vital against Newcastle, particularly if the opening exchanges do not go as planned.
Key said: "It's about having composure, lots of things can interrupt your game play, and that's about us putting our foot down and our marker down."