McGeechan backs banned Richards

SIR Ian McGeechan believes banned former Harlequins director of rugby Dean Richards deserves his nomination for a top European Rugby Cup award.

McGeechan, last year's British and Irish Lions head coach, was among a panel that put Richards' name forward.

ERC will mark 15 years of its flagship competition by recognising its leading coaches and players, among other categories, later this season. And Richards, who was coach of Leicester when they won successive Heineken Cups in 2001 and 2002, is on the coaches' list alongside McGeechan, Warren Gatland, Declan Kidney and Guy Noves.

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Ex-England No 8 Richards is currently serving a three-year coaching suspension for orchestrating a fake blood injury during Quins' Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat to Leinster last April.

"That's irrelevant in that we looked back over the last 15 years and came to decisions based purely on performance on the field," said McGeechan. "Dean won back-to-back titles with Leicester and, quite rightly, his outstanding sequence of results means that he deserves to be on the list."

The nominations for the players' award, meanwhile, are Lawrence Dallaglio, Rocky Elsom, Yannick Jauzion, Martin Johnson, Paul O'Connell, Brian O'Driscoll, Ronan O'Gara, Fabien Pelous and David Wallace.