New Newcastle Director of Rugby Dean Richards is hunting for Heineken Cup Glory

Dean Richards The despair, the darkness, the doubts have been lifted from Dean Richards’ shoulders since his appointment as Newcastle director of rugby, replaced by a familiar self-belief and a conviction he can get the Falcons flying again.
Despite the well-documented involvement in the Bloodgate affair and his subsequent three-year ban from rugby, there was no shortage of interest from clubs desperate to give a supposed pariah a second chance.
Plenty of eyebrows were raised when he chose the offer from Semore Kurdi’s Newcastle, whose stock has plummeted since winning the Premiership in 1998.
Depending on the outcome of London Welsh’s court case this week they could be playing in the Championship next season after last season’s 12th place book-ended a run of six consecutive bottom-four finishes.
Whereas most people would just see problems at Kingston Park, Richards sees potential. His involvement does not begin officially until mid-August but he is being fed a steady stream of information from John Wells, his trusted lieutenant from his Leicester days.
And while the Newcastle team he will inherit could not sink much lower, Richards told The Rugby Paper his sights are trained on taking the Falcons back to the summit.
“I want to win the league and the Heineken Cup with Newcastle,” he said.
“It would be wrong to put a timescale on those goals, because they are dependent on quite a lot of things, but I would not have taken over if I did not think those targets were achievable.
“I want to achieve them as quickly as possible but a lot of hard work will need to go in first.
“A number of clubs came knocking at my door and I feel very privileged to be back in the game.
“I felt that with Semore Kurdi at the helm the club was going somewhere. It is the club’s potential along with his ambition and vision that I really bought into. I like Semore a lot and when you meet some of the owners and board members at Premiership clubs, they can be an acquired taste. But with Semore I hit it off with him relatively quickly.
“I am counting down the days. I am really chomping at the bit. I have been up looking for houses so I am going up to Newcastle on a regular basis.
“Every time I go there I pop in for a coffee with Semore. I have found it very difficult not being involved but I know I have not got long to go. I just miss the sport to be honest and the business of rugby.”
There is no bitterness in Richards’ voice, only a sense of regret at past events that spiralled out of control.
Richards more than anyone has borne the consequences of that burst blood capsule but, just as Harlequins helped banish that stain by lifting the Premiership last month, so their former director of rugby is  focused only on the future – despite his successor Conor O’Shea’s handsome tribute to the foundations Richards put in place.
He said: “A lot of people have said to me do you find that frustrating (that Quins won the league) but actually I could not be happier. But I was there three years ago and I would rather look forwards rather than backwards.
“You can learn about things that have happened but you can’t spend all your time reflecting on them. I know I had done something wrong and I only had myself to blame for my actions.
“If you had asked me after the first year I would have probably said it is up in the air if I was going to continue with rugby.
“But I think the saving grace was watching my kids play and that’s got me going to games again. It re-awakened my interest in it.
“After that initial year I had stopped feeling sorry for myself, which I should not have done in the first place. I started to get my buzz back and here I am two years down the line when luckily I got this great opportunity at Newcastle.”
Already grand plans are formulating in Richards’ head to be implemented when his ban ends in mid-August.
While he has not been involved in recruitment, Richards has been impressed by the calibre of player the Falcons have captured but makes it clear that the academy will be at the forefront of his ambition for the club.
However, it would be a mistake to think the formula that worked so well for him at the Stoop is being transported to Tyneside.
He said: “I looked at some of the things that worked at Harlequins but I am coming to a completely different club.
“Leicester was a different club to Harlequins and the way I approach things at Newcastle will be totally different. The personnel, the type of people, their strengths and weaknesses are different but I will see when I get there. John keeps me abreast of what to expect but I will still need to make my own mind up.
“I want us to play with confidence and ambition and not to be afraid of having a go. There are some fantastic young players up there like Marc Wilson and Will Welch who have come through the ranks. There’s no reason why we cannot add to those guys by bringing more players out of the academy.”
Just as important as the players recruited has been the assembly of an outstanding backroom staff.
Wells, who arrived as a consultant last season, will remain at Kingston Park as will scrum coach Micky Ward and skills coach Calum Macrae.
With Richards’ blessing, the club have also appointed former Scotland defence coach Graham Steadman and Kiwi Peter Russell as head coach.
Any apprehension Richards feels about returning to the game after such a long break is dispelled by those right-hand men.
He said: “I would like to think the coaches we have brought into the club will be a big part of our success. Without a doubt when you have been out of the game a while, there’s an apprehension that the game has moved on.
“Three years has been a long time and it is hard to keep up to date because rugby is such a fast evolving sport.
“But then again the guys around me will not allow me to be that way.  Any thoughts I have about being out of touch, they will kick me into shape.”
DAN SCHOFIELD

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