Richards backs Falcons to fly the flag in France
Having taken the maximum five points from their tournament opener at home to Worcester last month, the Falcons travel to the Basque country with a wealth of academy graduates in their ranks.
Richards said: “We’ve got 20 English-qualified players in our match-day 23, a total of 13 of whom have come through our academy, so we’ve got a huge amount of homegrown talent.
“We’re really proud of that, and the number is even bigger when you consider some of the guys who are missing, like Tom Penny, Ben Stevenson, Trevor Davison, Sean Robinson, Mark Wilson, Michael Young, Joel Hodgson and the like.
“I think that’s a great reflection of what we’re about as a club, and this game is a great opportunity for us.”
Beating Worcester 31-26 in their Challenge Cup opener but searching for form in the league, Richards added: “We’re smarting from our last three results in the Premiership, which we’ve not been happy about, and we’ve got a point to prove.
“The boys want to go out to France and make a statement, and this tournament is important for us. We want to really go after European honours, and I’ve always loved the European competitions.”
With uncertainty having been surrounding this weekend’s fixtures due to Covid and the associated travel restrictions, Richards said: “There has obviously been a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes this week and lots of boxes needing to be ticked, but now that it seems to have been sorted we’re just looking forward to getting over there and giving a strong account of ourselves.
“We’ve had guys dropping out of the squad through positive tests this week, but that’s just the norm these days and you have to learn to deal with it. As much as you can say it’s a problem, it’s just part of life at the moment. Yes, it’s disruptive, but everyone’s in the same boat and you have to get on with it.
“The French clubs via the LNR are working with the French government in such a way whereby we can get there and back now as safely and with as little fuss as possible, and it’s great that they’ve got that relationship.
“I welcome the relaxation of the rules being brought in by the French government, and it does mean we’ll be able to fly out tomorrow [Friday] a little more easily.
“Had we had to isolate and test on arrival we’d have run the risk of having people stuck over in France for 10 days or even longer, and thankfully that isn’t the case now.”
Friday’s game kicks off at 9pm local time (8pm UK time) and can be viewed for €4.99 via the EPCR TV website by [**clicking here**].