Is Richards still the right man for Newcastle Falcons?
Dean Richards is approaching 10 years as Director of Rugby with Newcastle Falcons. The former Harlequins coach took charge of the Kingston Park club in the summer of 2012.
The former England international has not had the impact he would have envisaged when he originally took charge. The club mainly flirting with relegated over his nine-year tenure.
The Falcons have started the 2021-2022 season in relatively good form, currently sitting eighth in the Gallagher Premiership with four wins from their opening nine fixtures.
Richards has created a defensively strong unit, making it hard for opposition teams to break the Falcons line.
Wins against Bath, Bristol, Wasps and Exeter has created a buzz factor around the club. The latter being the Falcons first ever victory at Sandy Park in 13 attempts.
The club have struggled with consistently performing on a weekly basis, stringing together a run of victories has been few and far between throughout Richards, reign.
Newcastle have been relegated once under Richards. However, they did immediately bounce back into the top division of English rugby.
Richard took over from Peter Russell following relegation in the 2011-2012 season. He comfortably led the club to promotion at their first attempt.
However, the club struggled, finishing second bottom, three years in a row. There were questions raised as to whether Richards was the right man to continue leading the once Premiership champions.
After signing a new deal with the club back in 2015, the Falcons results started to pick up, finishing the season in a respectable eighth place.
Then followed two of the strangest seasons in the club’s history. The club remarkably finished fourth in the 2017-2018 season, losing 36-5 in the semi-final play-off to Exeter Chiefs.
That same season, the club also reached the Anglo-Welsh and Challenge Cup semi-finals.
Just as the fans thought the club would push on, they were brough back down to earth. From challenging in the league and competing in the Champions Cup, the club were relegated again in 2019.
After a dismal season Newcastle were relegated following defeat to Gloucester. The club were forced to rebuild after a number of senior players departed Kingston Park.
The Falcons however immediately bounced back and gained promoted the following season.
The 2019-2020 season was cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The club winning all of their first 15 matches, sitting a sizeable 18 points clear of second place.
Newcastle have struggled to attract star players, an area which had never been a concern in the past. Star signings such as Matt Burke, Carl Hayman and Jimmy Gopperth are now a distant memory.
Newcastle have seemingly turned into a yoyo club with little ambition. However, the 2020-2021 season will not see any team relegated.
An agreement between the RFU, Premiership and Championship Rugby will see the Premiership expand to 13 teams. One additional team will be promoted from the Championship at the end of the season.
One promising aspect is the club’s academy. Home grown players such as Jamie Blamire, Callum Chick, Will Welsh, Mark Wilson and Adam Radwan have all broke into the Eddie Jones’ England squad.
As Richards approaches 10-years at the helm, it will be interesting to see what direction the club will take.
Newcastle Falcons have not won the Premiership since 1998, their last major triumph coming in 2004 when they lifted the Powergen Cup.