|Born||Nuneaton, July 11 1963
|Internationals||48 caps between 1986 and 1996
|Inducted||England v Italy (March 9, 2003)
Won three Grand Slams with England
Dean Richards’ reluctance to seek the limelight can reach almost pathological levels. The archetypal team man throughout an international career brought him 48 caps for England and half a dozen appearances for the Lions, he has consistently shrugged off praise and honours. Fame on a personal level is just not his scene, but his achievements on the rugby fields of the world make him well qualified to take his place on Twickenham’s Wall of Fame.
With his mop of fair hair, jersey often hanging outside his shorts and his socks famously rolled down to his ankles, it is unlikely that Richards will ever be forgotten, least of all by the Italians in the 1991 World Cup.
It was his only brush with Italy and it was a feisty match at Twickenham and a game he does not recall with fondness. Nevertheless time has softened him enough for him to allow that, after what he felt was a cynical approach on that occasion, the Sixth Nation has come a long way in the intervening years.
“They have improved hugely since that 1991 World Cup match,” says the Leicester legend and the world’s most capped No.8.
Oddly, one of Richards’ lasting memories of Twickenham features a rubbish bin. If there is ever puzzlement in the memorabilia market over the rarity of 1996 Pilkington Cup runners-up tankards, investigators need look no further than Richards for an explanation.
Tigers had just lost by a point after referee Steve Lander awarded a last-minute penalty try against them and Neil Back had shoved the match official in the back.
Richards entered the dressing room clutching his runners-up memento, a glass tankard. He spotted a large rubbish bin and lobbed the tankard in the direction of the receptacle. The intention was for it symbolically to drop into the bin, testimony to what Richards thought of the match, the referee and the day.
Unfortunately it hit the side of the bin and dropped to the floor where, in front of the rest of the Leicester team, it shattered into hundreds of pieces.
“All the other players thought I had deliberately thrown it at the wall and most of them followed suit before I could stop them,” he said. “I doubt there are more than one or two of those tankards around now.”
He does have far more pleasant memories of Twickenham, however. “There was an intimacy to the old stadium, with spectators just half a dozen feet from the touchline. I don’t think any other international stadium had that intimacy.
“I remember the Grand Slams we clinched there in 1991 and 1992. In fact, that first Slam against France we won after having gone behind, and they scored that fantastic try counter-attacking from behind their own line.”
Now Richards’ induction onto the Wall of Fame – “It is a great honour for me but there are many others who deserve it more than me” – will jog a few more memories of this icon of late 20th-century English rugby.
Article by Dai Llewellyn