Rugby Union: Richards locked into a dilemma

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The Independent Online
Leicester. . .40

Milan. . . . .24

TONY RUSS, Leicester's director of coaching, saw his developing team beat a side who included nine internationals and said: 'Dean Richards has a big future as a second-row forward - if he wants it there.'

There lies the problem. Richards yearns for a return to No 8, his old England position, where Leicester already have a polished performer in Simon Povoas. The dilemma is heightened by Leicester's weakness at lock until Martin Johnson returns from injury.

New laws have increased the value of Richards wherever he plays. The side taking the ball into what becomes an inconclusive ruck or maul now concede the put-in at the next scrum. But the upper-body strength of Richards means that Leicester need not anticipate doing much of that.

Tigerish mauling sucked in the opposition before Aadel Kardooni spun the ball away expertly to incisive backs. The weighty presence of Richards also enhanced Leicester's scrummaging, just as he had done the previous week against England.

Richards is not exactly a member of the grin-and-bear-it brigade. He bore his positional switch without the grin after the match, but is bent on regaining an England place. 'Even if I have to play at prop,' he said.

Leicester are already making a few pertinent points this season in their power struggle with Northampton for supremacy in the Midlands. Their first meeting with an Italian club showed determination to broaden fixture horizons on non-league Saturdays as Bath have done.

Four tries to three was a modest reflection of Leicester's control in the inaugural fixture, played at a furious pace and watched by a 5,000 crowd. It took 20 points from John Liley, who landed eight of his nine kicks, to enable the score to mirror the proceedings.

Leicester dazzled in different departments. A pushover try testified to forward strength and technique; Nigel Richardson scored after liaising with Povoas from a maul and Darren Garforth crunched over after a wickedly bouncing kick from Kardooni baffled Milan. Steve Hackney, playing ahead of Rory Underwood on Leicester's rather quaint wing rota system, swept over for the best try after Liley timed his entry into the threequarter line to perfection.

Milan were no slouches in the running stakes either. Fabio Gomez and Alberto Marengoni both sprinted 40 yards for tries and Massimo Bonomi rocketed through a gap created by a subtle pass from Diego Dominguez.

Leicester: Tries Richardson, Hackney, Povoas, Garforth; Conversions Liley 4; Penalties Liley 4. Milan: Tries Gomez, Marengoni, Bonomi; Conversions Dominguez 3; Penalty Dominguez.

Leicester: J Liley; T Underwood, I Bates, S Potter, S Hackney; J Harris, A Kardooni; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, D Richards, M Poole, J Wells (capt), S Povoas, N Richardson.

Milan: F Williams; P Ricchebono, S Barba, M Bonomi, Marcello Cuttitta; D Dominguez, F Gomez; Massimo Cuttitta, A Marengoni, M Vaghi, P Pedroni (capt), G Croci, A Sciaresa, G Milano (F Berni, 63), A Caramella.

Referee: K Ricketts (London).

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