The last time the Leicester No 8 assumed this position, he replaced Tim Rodber at Murrayfield and won another two caps last season. Richards's return is again at Rodber's expense, the Northampton forward's leg having failed to recover quickly enough after having 24 stitches inserted in it as a result of a training accident.
At least Richards will know what to expect at the Arms Park. England players, for whom Welsh expectorations reach fever pitch whenever they play there, will be glad to know that the Welsh Rugby Union's 'Fans' Charter' will on Saturday be printed in the match programme for the first time.
Although spitting scarcely creates the right wholesome image, the WRU reacted with lofty disdain to assertions dragged out of Wade Dooley's recent autobiography, embellished by the England lock and endorsed by Roger Uttley, the former England coach, that pre-match walks from tunnel to pitch were liable to end in a drenching whether or not it was actually raining.
The union pointed to its Charter which encourages good sportsmanship, respect and courtesy - which means simply that Dooley is likely to get more of the same disgusting treatment before Wales play England.
Meanwhile, the England A team, who have already beaten France 29-17 this season, know that even if England remain unchanged for the rest of the season the prize of a Lions tour to New Zealand is attainable for many of them. They play Italy B at Bath tonight.
However, the disjointed nature of rugby at this level, together with improvements in Italian rugby, make both John Hall, the captain, and Jack Rowell, the coach, wary. 'This is a scratch team, it's not a squad that keeps evolving,' Rowell said. As the coach is not best pleased to have been excluded from England's close-season tour to north America, this is his, as well as his players', chance to prove a point.
ENGLAND A (v Italy B, Bath, tonight): A Buzza (Wasps); T Underwood (Leicester), D Hopley (Wasps), S Potter (Leicester), H Thorneycroft (Northampton); P Challinor (Harlequins), M Dawson (Northampton); C Clark (Swansea), K Dunn (Wasps), A Mullins (Harlequins), M Johnson (Leicester), A Blackmore (Bristol), J Hall (capt, Bath), S Ojomoh (Bath), N Back (Leicester).
ITALY B: P Dotto; L Perzanio, S Bordon, M Tommasi, L Manteri; M Bonomi (capt), G Faltiba; F Properzicurti, A Marengoni, A Piazza, R Cassina, M Giarcheri, A Sgorlon, F Coppo, D Beretta.
Referee: G Black (Ireland).
Wales and the money business,
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