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Richards proves a constant thorn in Irish side

Our recent spell of weather reminds me of an occasion when Dean Richards was the dominant individual.

It was a dreadful day at Twickenham, a frozen pitch in March 1986, but they festooned the pitch with braziers full of burning coal and the match, England versus Ireland, went ahead on the awful surface. And Richards, gaining his first cap at No 8, scored two tries.

The English forwards epitomised what the French have dubbed 'the roast beef'. They toyed with the Irish pack on the gluey ground, pushed them across the try-line and Richards fell on the ball for his two tries.

That feat was an English record for a forward on his first cap.

Coincidentally, the last of his considerable appearances for the men in white was also against Ireland in 1996 and again England dominated.

Richards, who was policeman in those days, went on to chose rugby as a career and played for Leicester before becoming their coach.

Leicester dispensed with his services and he became coach of Harlequins and presided over the infamous 'bloodgate' affair, which resulted in his suspension from the game and his dispatch to never-never land.

That Irish team, by the way, got the wooden spoon in '86.

It was captained by Ciaran Fitzgerald and his props, on that day in Twickenham, were Paul Kennedy and Des Fitzgerald. Donal Lenihan and Brian McCall provided the second-row pairing, while David Morrow, Brian Spillane and Nigel Carr were the back-row.

The backs, who couldn't do much to save the situation, included some classy performers like Hugo MacNeill, Trevor Ringland, Brendan Mullin and Michael Bradley.

As for that 'bloodgate' affair, we've possibly heard the last of it.

Harlequins have learned an expensive lesson and were very lucky to be included in the Heineken Cup this season and other clubs will steer well clear of such illegalities.

There are much more serious misdemeanours affecting rugby and according to France's leading sports newspaper, 'L'Equipe', the use of stimulants is widespread among some French players.

The widespead use of amphetamines -- a stimulant to the central nervous system -- is the most popular and possibly the least damaging. But according to 'L'Equipe' the use of more dangerous steroids is extensive.

Irish Independent