Richmond realistic about future

Richmond 34 Nottingham 0
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As Richmond celebrated in the corporate hospitality suites that have sprung up around the Athletic Ground, Brian Moore took possession of the Seond Division championship trophy. He was like a pit bull with a bone.

It was an emotional moment for the battle-scarred hooker who had reluctantly taken the decision that the game against Nottingham would be his last. "It's a great shame," Moore said. "I would have loved to have played in the First Division but I just can't do it."

Next season Richmond will train during the day rather than the evenings, and Moore is fully occupied as a partner in a law firm. "Playing professional rugby and holding down a job are incompatible," Moore said. "That's the way it should be, really."

Moore, who is 35, has been putting it about in the front row for 18 years with Roundhay, Nottingham, Harlequins and Richmond, not to mention his career with England.

Whereas Ben Clarke, the captain, signed a substantial contract to join Richmond from Bath, Moore's deal was a pounds 400 win bonus per match. With 19 victories he is owed a cheque for pounds 7,600.

Ashley Levitt, the Monaco-based millionaire who has helped to transform Richmond from a Third Division side into one of England's 12 elite clubs, thinks they can break even financially the season after next.

There are plans to upgrade the Athletic Ground but agreement will have to be reached with the agents of the Crown estate and the local council. There is also a suggestion of sharing Craven Cottage with Fulham FC.

"There isn't a bottomless pit of money and, if you like, we had to pay to play this season," Levitt said. "For us to sustain premiership status we're going to have to spend money on new players, but I don't see us doing that on an annual basis."

Wisely, Richmond are investing in a youth programme, but in the meantime Moore believes the club will have to recruit at least half a dozen players.

"There's a lot of talent, but they'll have to mature quickly," he said. "They will need to become more streetwise. I'm not sure they have the knack yet."

The culture shock of life in the First Division will be even more pronounced because of the disparity in class between a handful of teams in League Two and the rest. Richmond suffered only one defeat in the league, to Newcastle, but although they generally hammered everybody else, they lost a "friendly" to Otago in February by 70-0.

Nottingham, who were resigned to relegation before Saturday, pin their hopes on a consortium of businessmen and Barrie Corless, their new director of rugby who was formerly with Northampton and Gloucester. What they really need is aRobin Hood.

"Fairness has nothing to do with it," Gary Pearce, Nottingham's veteran prop, said. "The game is becoming more and more like soccer and it's teams with the money that will prosper."

At 41, Pearce is also ready to hang up his boots. A quantity surveyor, Pearce, who had a successful career with Northampton and England, responded to the call to help Nottingham, but he didn't do it for the money.

"There's a few quid in it, not a lot," he said. "I just like playing rugby, but the lower down you go the harder it gets."

Richmond: Tries A Moore 2, Brown, Clarke, Davies; Penalties Mason 3.

Richmond: S Mason; J Fallon, A Bateman, E Va'a, S Brown; A Davies, A Moore; J Foster, B Moore, D Crompton, C Quinnell, S Atherton, L Jones, B Clarke (capt), A Vander.

Nottingham: R Byrom; R Bygrave, J Hall, D Smith, N Holland; D Evans, A Royer (capt); M Freer, C Claydon, G Pearce, B McCarthy, R Sussum, G Bibby, J Brennan, I Gordon.

Referee: D Chapman (RFU).