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'I was probably a bit more anxious then, a little bit more nervous'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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Dean Richards has claimed he is stepping away from front-line rugby a mellower character at the age of 58 than what he was like when he took over as the Newcastle director of rugby a decade ago after his Bloodgate suspension expired. The ex-England No8 celebrates his 59th birthday on July 11, by which time his long stint as Falcons boss will be over and he will likely be taking up a part-time consultancy role at the club.

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When Richards arrived at Newcastle in 2012, it marked his return to the sport following the three-year ban he was given following the verdict in the Bloodgate case surrounding what took place when he was in charge of Harlequins in a Heineken European Cup quarter-final versus Leinster in 2009.

A fake blood capsule was used to make a change late in the match in an effort to get a Harlequins kicker back on the pitch in the hope of scoring a winning kick. That was April and it was four months in August when Richards learned his disciplinary hearing fate a week after resigning as the Quins boss.

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That suspension meant there was a big focus on Richards when he returned to rugby three years later as the Newcastle boss tasked with getting the Falcons promoted back into the Premiership from the Championship at the first attempt. This he succeeded in doing.

Asked by RugbyPass to compare the Dean Richards of 2012 when he first arrived in the northeast of England with the Richards of 2022 vintage, he replied. “I was probably a bit more anxious then, I was a little bit more nervous and I think I’m a little more chilled now probably because I made the decision to stand back at the end of the year.

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“There is no doubt about it, if I was still involved I’d still have an edge and still be looking forward to a game as though it is the most important game in the world. As a player, I was like that and I feel that every week as a coach as well or as a manager. That is the way that each and every one of the coaches feels.”

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The budget at his disposal in Newcastle was very different from what he had to play with when in charge at Leicester and Harlequins. What those clubs wanted trophies, a more restricted financial investment meant the Falcons had different ambitions across a decade where they finished three consecutive eleventh place finishes followed by eighth and fourth before a twelfth place relegation in 2019.

Since returning to the top-flight following their second Championship title win, they have finished tenth and are current in eleventh with one round of matches remaining in the current 2021/22 campaign.

What has Richards made of managing Newcastle compared to Tigers and Quins? “Very different challenges but at the same time it is all based around the team and making it work and we have a habit of getting more out of our players than any other team in the Premiership just looking at how much we spend on our squad compared to other teams.

“If you were looking at it from a golfing perspective, a par for us would be finishing twelfth or 13th each year and we don’t finish there. There was only one year that we hit par, the year we got relegated.”

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One of the reasons why Richards perhaps feels less anxious than he did a decade ago when first in charge at Newcastle is the frequent fishing expeditions he goes on. Do any of the players ever tag along for some bonding away from the rugby?

“There are some of the boys that go fishing. There’s Richard Palframan, Kyle Cooper, Adam Radwan, the three of them go fishing. I took Kyle and Palframan last year and they both scored their first salmon. Actually, Palframan couldn’t keep it in so he has still got to catch his first salmon on the fly yet, which is a bit of a shame. I took them to one spot but I don’t let them go back there.”

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