Richards, who is moving on at the end of the season as part of a restructure at Scottish, insists experienced forward packs have become too dominant in a league that he believes needs refereeing differently to encourage better attacking skills.
Ex-England scrum-half Richards claims applying upper age limits would benefit England in the longer-term, telling The Rugby Paper: “It’s up to the RFU where the Championship goes but it has to have more of a breeding ground for young English players.
“Primarily, it needs to be refereed slightly differently because at the moment we’ve got a situation where the dominant packs prevail every week and that’s stunting the development of free-flowing rugby. I’d also look at the overall age of squads.
“I’d like to see an age cap put on the league so that you can only have three or four players in your squad over the age of 25 and the rest is about developing young players – there’s no benefit in 35-year-old props crucifying youngsters every week.
“That way you’d get more parity at set-piece time, which would allow teams to be more inventive and expansive in their attacking game.
“That would in turn filter upwards as players progress to the Premiership and, eventually, the England team.”
Richards added: “Age limits might not suit teams like London Irish or Bristol at the top, who would argue they need Premiership-ready teams, but the Championship should not be dictated to by one team that has vastly different resources at its disposal.
“How can teams compete with sides like Bristol, who could come down with people like Steven Luatua getting paid £650,000? He’ll be on more than some squads in this league so that’s a massive mismatch that somebody should be looking at.
“If you want the league and its players to grow, you’ve got to change the ground rules because by having such a mismatch in salaries, which isn’t the case in the Premiership, the Championship is anything but the level playing field it needs to be.
“Whether promotion and relegation needs to be looked at is for others to decide, but an age limit would benefit everyone because the league should be a development tool, rather than a graveyard for older players just looking to survive.”
Richards insists refereeing standards also need attention, with more done by the RFU financially to encourage senior players to take up the whistle.
He said: “Officiating needs dramatic improvement and there must be more encouragement for players to come across. We’ve seen Karl Dickson, Richard Haughton and Hamish Smales show interest but more investment is needed.
“In order to persuade a guy to give up his playing career at 31 or 32, the RFU has to offer a credible wage. We operate million pound businesses in the Championship now and the guys in the middle need to be far more highly qualified.”