Sudbury Rugby Club - new coach Richards in for the long haul

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FORMER Harlequins assistant coach Graham Richards hopes to be the man to rebuild Sudbury Rugby Club and move them back up the leagues.

The 58-year-old Welshman will take control for the first time on Saturday when Suds open their London Three North East season at home to South Woodham Ferrers (3pm).

Richards, who was at rugby giants Harlequins in 1997/98, becomes the club’s third new appointment in as many seasons after replacing duo Lee Cooper and Scott Harries as head coach.

But while the ex-St Joseph’s College director of rugby, who is dedicating himself full-time to the club, wants them to be challenging for London One North, he accepts it is a long-term plan with a youthful squad.

“I looked at the facilities and they are fantastic, the best in the area, I have no doubt about that,” he said. “I saw a big challenge to see what I can do with the rugby and I am looking forward to getting back working with adults.

“It is a very young squad and we only have two players over the age of 23 and the average age is 21 – it is good for the future and part of my brief is develop youth rugby.”

Former coach Mark Bolton, who played professional rugby league for Swinton Lions and rugby union for Orrell, has signed up in a playing capacity to help guide the youngsters with 19-year-old fly-half Tom Summers given the captaincy.

Richard Lorking will be vice-captain, while England youth flanker Gabriel Carroll, with Richards at St Joseph’s College in Ipswich, will play until January with his brother John before going over to play in Auckland, New Zealand. But lightning winger Matt Johnson has left to join National League outfit Shelford.

Having aimed to bounce straight back up after relegation last season, injuries left Sudbury looking over their shoulder in the other direction, eventually finishing in the safety of ninth, four places off the bottom.

Richards, who has also coached in South Africa, Malta – as the island’s director of rugby – and was player-coach at London Irish for their second team in the 1980s, said: “Realistically a top half finish would be good this year and to develop rugby people can come and watch which excites them.”

Chairman Beckett said of the coaching change: “We have got one of the best qualified coaches in the area who has agreed to work with us.

“Lee and Scott decided they wanted to pursue rugby in a different direction from the club, regrettably, but we wish them every success in the future.”