His place goes to Will Johnson, younger brother of the England lock, Martin. Johnson minor has played just three league games for Tigers and Eric Miller, on the open side, only has a fistful of appearances, during which time he has managed to play in all three back row spots.
That means the veteran John Wells will have to call on all his considerable experience to try to stem the tide represented by Bath's formidable trio of the former Lion, Richard Webster, the Scotland international, Eric Peters and the England flanker, Andy Robinson. Having already lost their opening league match at Saracens, Tigers cannot afford another defeat. Their coach, Bob Dwyer, said: "We were appalling and that needs to change instantly." Bath may well prevent that.
Newly-promoted Northampton have left the England fly-half Paul Grayson on the bench for the trip to London Irish. His place goes to Scotland's Gregor Townsend, who was kept out in the centre during their runaway championship last season. So keen is Townsend that, unlike Richards, he will play with a sprained wrist in what is arguably his best position.
The Second Division sees the clash of the financial giants, with wealthy Richmond travelling to heavily backed Coventry. Richmond will unleash one of the most dynamic back rows in the country, with Scott Quinnell and England's Ben Clarke in the vanguard.
Bedford hope to field the rugby league legend Martin Offiah, provided he can come through a fitness test on a bruised toe, at home to unfancied Nottingham. Offiah is one of nine players making their league debuts for Bedford, among them Sale's former coach, Paul Turner, and the former England prop, Jeff Probyn.
Saracens, meanwhile, remain affiliated to football. Having opened the season at their temporary home, Enfield FC, they travel tomorrow to the match against Wasps at Queens Park Rangers' Loftus Road stadium.