Rising Brighton star earns professional deal

Ollie Richards, left, has signed a deal with Leeds Carnegie

Ollie Richards, left, has signed a deal with Leeds Carnegie

First published in Sport by

Ollie Richards has targeted first team rugby in the Guinness Premiership after clinching his first professional contract.

But the Brighton College inside centre will have Twickenham in his sights when he runs out at Waterhall tomorrow.

Richards, 18, has agreed a two-year deal with Leeds Carnegie after playing for his school and Wales under-18s.

Now he is seeing out the season with his local club Brighton Blues, who won league and national cup honours last season and are in the running for a repeat on both counts.

Richards will be at full-back, filling a void left by injured points machine Alex Finch, as Gosport and Fareham visit in the last eight of the national knockout tomorrow (2.30pm).

He could also play a part in the chase for the London Three South East title.

Richards was disappointed when Harlequins, where he played for the Academy, did not offer him professional terms but believes the move to Yorkshire could work out for the best.

He said: “There was other interest but I chose Leeds because they are not one of the really top clubs and I’m aiming to break into the first team. Maybe I’ve got more chance there than at somewhere like London Irish. I think Leeds had watched me play for Wales and Harlequins.”

Richards could opt to combine his rugby with a business management course at university.

He is likely to be joined by Brighton College colleague Harry Leonard in the coming weeks as the Blues’ season heads to an exciting finale.

They are locked in a three-way tussle at the top of their division with Heathfield and East Grinstead and tomorrow face a side already crowned champions of Three South West.

Whether the fact they wrapped up their title last Saturday leads to Gosport and Fareham cutting loose or letting their foot off the pedal remains to be seen but Blues player-coach Neil McGovern predicts a tough game.

The former Havant centre said: “Gosport is in my old neck of the woods and they were always quite a physical side. They also have a good kicker.

“We have played two sides in that division during our cup run. We’ve beaten Ellingham and Ringwood and also Old Alleyninan and we know a bit about Gosport and Fareham.”

Brighton College flanker Lucas Shone comes into the Blues side to replace injured James Lewis while long-serving lock Mark Gibb retains kicking duties.

Saracens are sending their minis section down for games in the morning and a couple of touring clubs are also in town.

McGovern said: “There will be about 1,000 people around the club in the morning. Everybody is looking forward to having a really big day at the ground.”

Richards agrees it is a big occasion, even though he has greater things to look forward to.

He said: “I’ve played for Brighton since I was 12 and this is my full debut for the firsts, although I know the players. It’s exciting. It’s a home game and there should be a big crowd.”

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