“He could have fired me for drinking midweek and then had me beat up by a bunch of bouncers. Instead, Dean said, ‘I’ll smack you on the wrist, but actually I congratulate you on standing up for your teammate’.”
An era ends today in Newcastle as Dean Richards officiates his last home game as top rugby boss.
Twenty-four years after his first appointment as Leicester rugby director, he is officiating his 683rd game against the same Tigers.
“He’s not going to want anyone talking about him outside of the game,” warned Dave Walder, who is stepping up from head coaching this summer to succeed Richards.
“He’s played as big a role here as his character would suggest and has seen the club through some pretty difficult times over the years.
“But he doesn’t want anyone to make a big scene. He’ll just want to merge quietly. That’s how he does it.”
Richards, 58, will be remembered for his role in Bloodgate, faking a blood injury while at Harlequins that led to his retirement and a three-year coaching ban.
That could have tarnished his career forever, instead he remains one of the game’s most popular characters 13 years later.
“I remember the first time I met Dean,” said Joe Marler, the Harlequins’ England property manager.
“It was my first week at the club that he could have sacked me for drinking during the week and then getting beat up by a crowd of bouncers on a Wednesday night.
“But because I got beat up trying to defend a friend, he decided to scare me a little before saying, ‘I’ll slap your wrist but actually I congratulate you for standing up for your teammate have.’
“It was quite an experience for me as a young 17-year-old to be treated like that by a legend in the sport.”
Austin Healey, who played under Richards at Leicester, recalled being sent to Norwich for a coaching session with ‘Deano’ during his first week at the club.
“We met this guy called Smokie, a really big guy,” Healey recalled. “We had a few beers and a curry, then Smokie started challenging people to arm wrestle.
“Well, I may not be the greatest man in the world, but arm wrestling is my specialty – and Dean knew it. He looked at Smokie and said, “My money’s on this little fella. If he does, you can pay for anyone’s curry. What are you saying?’
“Smokie laughed… for about five seconds. Then he got quite upset when I slammed his arm on the table and Dean hysterically smashed it.”
Obviously enjoying the lighter side of life, Richards is also passionate about his rugby and those involved with it.
“I’ve been doing this for about 25 years and it’s been a long journey,” said the former police officer, who was named rugby director of the season in 2018 after guiding the Falcons into the top four of the season-ending playoffs.
“At the same time, I’m still passionate about mustard and still thoroughly enjoy the sport and matchdays.”
There is no better example than the days when snow threatened the Newcastle games.
Time and time again, Richards was out with his shovel, leading efforts to clear the field – before making bacon sandwiches for everyone.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/dean-richards-rugby-one-joe-27026270 Dean Richards a one off rugby match and Joe Marler and Austin Healey explain why