Ex-England back-rower Richards aiding police's virus response

London (AFP) –


England great Dean Richards has returned to his old career by volunteering with the police during the coronavirus pandemic.

Now Newcastle Falcons' director of rugby, former England No 8 Richards was a police officer during his early playing days at Leicester before rugby union turned professional.

But with the sport currently suspended, he will joining Newcastle's local Northumbria force in northeast England.

Richards, 56, will help prepare hundreds of pieces of personal protective equipment for use by frontline officers in an effort to keep them safe as they go about their duties amid a nationwide lockdown caused by COVID-19.

"I know that at times like this people need to work together and help in any way they can," said Richards on Thursday.

"Thanks to Northumbria Police for letting me help in a small way, it was my privilege."

Superintendent Helena Barron, from the force's operations department, added: "Dean swapped his baton for a rugby ball years ago but will always be part of the wider police family and we thank him for his help in these unprecedented times."

Richards won 48 caps for England and went into coaching only for his career to come to a halt when, as Harlequins boss, he was given a three-year ban in 2009 for his part in the 'Bloodgate' scandal that saw a player feign injury by biting on a fake blood capsule so a substitution could take place.

Richards joined the Falcons in 2012 after serving his suspension.

They will play in the elite English Premiership next season after leading the second-tier Championship by 18 points when all domestic rugby union below the top flight was suspended due to the virus outbreak.

The last Premiership match was played on March 8, with officials announcing Wednesday an indefinite suspension of the season, having initially aimed to resume on April 24.

Premiership Rugby, however, do still intend to play all their 2019/20 fixtures.