SEBASTIAN De Chaves admits a London Irish victory at Worcester Warriors in tonight’s crucial Aviva Premiership relegation battle would be a ‘perfect Christmas present’ (7.45pm ko).

The South African lock skippered Exiles to an eight straight loss in all competitions when Stade Francais scored an injury-time try to snatch a 26-20 European Challenge Cup victory on Saturday, but De Chaves feels his side are coming good.

He said: “We can take a lot of positives into Worcester and a win would be the perfect Christmas present.

“I think one win could trigger a winning run. Worcester have proven that and in this league if you have three or four good weeks it’s a completely different picture on the table.

“We feel like we’re building and we keep on trying to get better every single week, which is the way it has been since I came to the club.

"Every week is an opportunity to get better. We feel we’re almost there and if a couple of things click our way then suddenly we’ll be on to one.

“It’s a massive, massive game, but it’s not the be-all and end-all.”

Meanwhile, head coach Nick Kennedy expects his side to perform, though does not believe it is a win-or-bust fixture.

Irish, beaten 26-20 by Stade Francais in Europe last weekend, could slip as many as 11 points behind second-bottom Warriors.

But Kennedy said: “We’re not even half-way through the season, so it’s not as big as it was two years ago (Irish lost 12-6).

Reading Chronicle:

London Irish director of rugby, Nick Kennedy.

“We’ve got another game the week after and we’ve still got chances to improve. The players know that, but they also know what we expect on Friday and I’m sure they’ll go out and deliver it.”

Meanwhile, Exiles have rung the changes for tonight and Saia Fainga’a will make his full Aviva Premiership debut.

The 36-times capped Wallaby starts at hooker alongside double World Cup winning All Black Ben Franks and experienced tighthead Petrus Du Plessis.

Former Springbok international Franco van der Merwe and Samoan Teofilo Paulo get the nod in the engine room, while Mike Coman, Blair Cowan and Ofisa Treviranus make up the back row.

Cowan, who is closing in on 100 appearances for Irish, returns to his former club having spent the 2012/13 campaign at Sixways.

Meanwhile, Ben Meehan and James Marshall start at scrum-half and fly-half respectively, with Greig Tonks controlling affairs from full-back.

Skipper Fergus Mulchrone and Luke McLean start in the centres, while Joe Cokanasiga and Alex Lewington provide the pace on either wing.

“We’ve had a very good training week and we’re all looking forward to the game,” added Kennedy.

“Selecting a team wasn’t easy, with a number of players forcing themselves into the starting XV on the back of good performances.

“Worcester are an excellent team with threats right across the park and it’s important that we’re at it from the very first whistle.

“We’re now approaching the midway point in the season and there are many points still to be won.”

Worcester: Pennell; Heem, Willison, Mills, Adams; Lance, Hougaard; Waller, Singleton, Schonert, O'Callagahan (capt), Spencer, Denton, Lewis, van Velze. Replacements: Taufete'e, Bower, Milasinovich, Barry, Faosiliva, Dowsett, Olver, Humphreys.

London Irish: Tonks; Cokanasiga, Mulchrone (capt), McLean, Lewington; Marshall, Meehan; Franks, Fainga'a, Du Plessis, van der Merwe, Paulo, Coman, Cowan, Treviranus. Replacements: Woolstencroft, Reid, Chawatama, De Chaves, Northcote-Green, Steele, Bell, Tikoirotuma.

Referee: Wayne Barnes.