Richards on Saints loss and European uncertainty
Speaking after the Gallagher Premiership defeat, Richards said: “It was a very poor game indeed from our side.
“I think the only positive was Nathan Earle who came into the side late and played well, but everyone else was average at best.
“We lacked accuracy, we’ve spoken about it in the changing room and we’ve got to sort ourselves out.
“Northampton are a good side, and you can’t take away from the fact they played well on the day.
“Alex Mitchell and Dan Biggar in the half-backs made a big difference for them, but at the same time we’ve got a reasonably well-established pack and a back line with some internationals in who are good players.
“Losing Matias Orlando to a concussion in the first five minutes was obviously a blow for us, and Louis Schreuder went off not long after that, but you can’t make excuses. We were extremely poor on the day.”
Facing a hugely uncertain fortnight with EPCR Challenge Cup games scheduled in Biarritz on Friday and Toulon eight days later, Richards hit out at the lack of clarity regarding the travel, isolation and Covid testing, despite the tournament organisers having vowed to press ahead with rounds three and four.
“It’s not as simple as EPCR just coming out and saying the games are going ahead,” said Richards.
“There’s still a 48-hour isolation period for people entering France, and there’s been no clarity on what that means. Does it mean we’re locked in a hotel room for 48 hours, and you’ve got to take a test before the game to get out of your hotel?
“If anyone tests positive there’ll be a ten-day isolation period, and you’d have to assume that’ll be for virtually the whole squad if they’ve been on a plane and a bus together.
“We’re not sure where we stand with it all, and to be honest I’m not sure if we can go.
“There has so far been no relaxation from the French government regarding the 48-hour isolation requirement, and it’s very much up in the air. We just don’t know where we stand.”
He added: “We’ve heard nothing from EPCR other than a positive email which doesn’t actually clarify anything. There’s no clarity on isolation, no clarity on the testing, and all they’ve said is from the competition point of view it’s game on. But that’s not what the French government have said so far, and we just don’t know where we stand.
“The situation is compounded by having back-to-back games out in France, and there’s every chance we’ll go out there and end up living in France for the next three or four weeks. That might not sound bad to some people, but I don’t think they’ll be sending red wine and foie gras to our quarantine hotel room!”
With Covid also affecting the domestic schedule, Richards also expressed firm opinions on his desire to re-schedule rather than cancelling the affected matches.
“The Sale game on Boxing Day is a classic case in point,” he said.
“Whether it was right to cancel the game is irrelevant – there are gaps in the season whereby you could still get these games played.
“There are cup weekends and things like that, and we’d be happy to play midweek to get these games played rather than just cancelling them. Clubs have got big squads, and especially in a season without relegation it’d be great to get some of your younger guys or your squad players to step up to that Gallagher Premiership stage.
“I appreciate there are difficulties involved, but we’ve got loads of guys who want to play rugby, and I don’t think it’s right that we’re just cancelling these games.
“There are loads of guys sat in the stand who aren’t getting any rugby, and I just don’t understand why as a league we’re doing what we’re doing. I don’t know how the other clubs feel and I’m only speaking for Newcastle, but we’d be dead keen to re-schedule the games rather than just cancelling them.”