Full name Thomas James Richards
Born April 7, 1883, Vegetable Creek, NSW
Died September 25, 1935, Brisbane (aged 52 years 171 days)
Major teams Great Britain, Australia
|Test debut||Wales v Australia at Cardiff, Dec 12, 1908 match details|
|Last Test||United States of America v Australia at Berkeley, Nov 16, 1912 match details|
|Test Statsguru||Main menu | Career summary | Match list | Most points | Most tries | Tournament list|
Tom Richards' place in rugby history is down to him being the only Australian-born player to have represented Australia and also played for the British & Irish Lions. The Australian Dictionary of Biography described him as "big, fast, versatile and opportunistic, with a natural brain for Rugby, he set up chances to score but was alert to fall back in defence".
The son of Cornish immigrant, Richards grew up in a mining town in New South Wales and his interest in rugby started from when the state side visited. He started training and was picked for Queensland shortly before his family emigrated to South Africa.
He played there for Transvaal and ruled ineligible for South Africa's tour of England, he nevertheless travelled there and played club rugby for Bristol and once represented Gloucestershire before returning home to Australia when he became aware of plans for the Wallabies to tour Great Britain the following year.
The journey was not in vain and he was chosen for the tour and played in both Tests. During the visit he took part in the London Olympics, scoring a try as Australia won gold in beating a Great Britain side that was in reality a Cornwall XV. Richards sailed to South Africa in 1910 and while there was drafted into the Lions side as a replacement, his qualification earned through his short time in Bristol. He played 12 matches in all, including two Tests.
Back in Australia, he was selected as vice-captain for a tour of North America where he made the last of his three Wallabies Test appearances. After the conclusion of the tour the itinerant Richards went to France, playing for Toulouse and helping prepare the national side for a Test with Wales. He once more returned to Australia and retired from rugby at the end of the 1913 season.
Within three weeks of the outbreak of World War One he had enlisted with the AIF and he served as a stretcher bearer at Gallipoli. From there he went to Egypt and then the Western Front, winning the MC and twice being wounded.
His life thereafter was not overly happy. He worked as a salesman, married late and divorced soon after, and died from tuberculosis at the age of 52.
In 2005 he was one of the inaugural inductees into the Australian Rugby Union Hall of Fame, described as "an extraordinary character whom The Times described in 1908 as the first man to be picked for Earth if we were ever to play Mars!". From 2001 the Tom Richards Cup has been the trophy that is played for between the British & Irish Lions and Australia.
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