KIBA Richards has described his call-up into the England Counties rugby squad ‘a massive honour’.
The 27-year-old Worthing Raiders centre is part of the England squad, which is made up of National League players, who play against France Federale in Nevers, France, this evening.
He is one of eight newcomers named in the squad, who will also play the Ireland Clubs XV at the Northern Echo Arena, home of Darlington Mowden Park, on February 21.
Richards, who has represented England in age-group rugby, has had two spells at Raiders. He played for the club in the 2006-07 season, before he returned for his second spell in 2011.
On his call-up, Richards said: “It’s a massive honour. Sometimes when you play at this level, you don’t quite get recognition that you may feel you deserve.
“You put the slog in week-in, week-out and you train just as hard as anyone else and, on top of that, you have a full-time job or whatever.
“To get that recognition, I’m just really happy about it. For someone to say ‘we’ve been watching you and we appreciate what you do’ and to get some recognition for that, I’m very happy.
“It’s nice to have on your CV and it’s nice to know that you’ve got the ability and people appreciate that ability, so I’m very happy about that.
“We play on the Friday, so I miss the Raiders game on Saturday. But it’s an opportunity that I can’t waste and I’ve got to take it.”
Richards was offered a NPC contract in New Zealand in the summer when he was playing at Spotswood United but turned down the offer and said: “I got the offer of a contract in New Zealand but I’ve got family and home ties here.
“It was once again recognition. It’s nice to get it and every time you get it, you just have to smile and say thank-you.”
Richards was back from playing in New Zealand for Raiders’ opening game in National 1 and the goal now is to make sure the club are still in the division next season.
Speaking after Saturday’s 29-19 win over Tynedale, when he scored one try and played a vital role in two others, Richards said: “We’re down near the bottom and we want to distance ourselves from the bottom and get up to mid-table.
“It’s our first season in National 1 and our number one priority is to stay up in the league at the moment.
“We’d been National 2 for three or four years, five years even. We’d been mid-table and then suddenly two or three players came in, the new coaching set came in. And then we realised, actually, there’s something we can do and there’s something we can progress to. And we just went for it.
“We just missed out on promotion the first time we went for it but got it second time. It’s amazing and it’s great to be playing in this league and all of us are really desperate not to go back down. We’re fighting for our survival and, hopefully, we achieve it.
“Today was absolutely massive as they were just below us and we’ve managed to get five points and they didn’t get any. There’s been games we should have won but didn’t win, so every time you don’t do that, the pressure builds.
“Finally, today, we won, so it’s like a big massive release for all the guys. Now we can pull away, hopefully, and put some results together.”