Andrew Bryan, NRL.com
Ireland winger Pat Richards would have played for Australia had he not moved to play in the English Super League, according to former teammate Robbie Farah.
Farah and Richards will play against each other on Saturday night when Australia clash with Ireland at Thomond Park in Limerick, but the Kangaroos utility is adamant that Richards would have represented the green and gold if he had stayed in Australia.
Since leaving the NRL, Richards went onto become the leading point-scorer in the Super League for four consecutive years between 2007-2010 with Wigan, culminating in him winning the Man of Steel award in 2010; the competition’s player of the year award.
The 31-year-old is set to re-join Farah and the Wests Tigers in the 2014 NRL season – but first they have a Test match to play against each other.
"I'm sure if he didn't leave the NRL at such an early age he would have played for Australia," Farah told NRL.com. "People often forget how young he was when he left after 2005.
"He will be in the record books for a long time, he has point scoring records in the Super League and a Man of Steel award for a winger is pretty special.
"Challenge Cup Finals, Super League Finals – he’s done everything over here in the UK. I'm looking forward to having him back at the Wests Tigers next year, not only his size and strength, but his kicking and his threat under the high ball."
While Richards and Farah will play against each other for the first time on Saturday night, it will not stop the pair from sharing a coffee the day before the game.
Their mateship was forged during the Wests Tigers’ 2005 premiership-winning campaign and still remains strong despite Richards leaving to play in England eight years ago.
"We still keep in contact pretty regularly, I caught up with him when we first got to England and he just texted me then actually," Farah said.
"We are going to catch up for a coffee tomorrow morning, I’m pretty excited to have him back at the Wests Tigers next year, he is not only a great player, but an even better bloke.
"We are all pretty tight, I think that is why we did win the comp in 2005, we weren’t the best team, but we just kept improving as the year went on. We just formed a special bond to a point that we didn't want to let each other down. That mateship has continued ever since that Grand Final. We all stay in touch, even though we are now all over the world.
"At the end of the day, we are still mates, it is a Test match, but a coffee the day before a game isn't going to hurt anyone."
Richards has a special place in Wests Tigers history, his try in the 2005 NRL Grand Final, fending Rod Jensen after a Benji Marshall flick pass is forever etched into Rugby League folkore.
But it is the story behind the moment that made it even more special and strengthened the bond between everyone at the club.
"Patty's story is a pretty special one, we thought he had broken his leg in the week of the semi-final – we thought he was no hope of playing," Farah said.
"The day before the grand final at the captain's run, we all remember sitting in the sheds waiting for him to complete the fitness test and him telling us he was in.
"The sheds broke into pure elation.
"He was probably the form winger of the competition that year, he scored some magnificent tries, but not only that, he was one of those players off the field that the players loved to be around, he is a great character and that moment when he came in and told us he was playing, we won that grand final right there and then.
"He has absolutely loved playing for Ireland, he is very proud of his heritage.
"He would never turn down an opportunity to play for them and he has about 30 or 40 family members coming to watch him play, which is pretty special – to get to see him play against Australia in Ireland.
"I might have to go looking for him on the field, but he is pretty big, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to rough him up at all... in the name of fun.
"He might be in the middle making a couple of runs, so we might get to have a bit of banter.
"If he wants my jersey after the game, it would be pretty special to swap. Last week I swapped with Koroibete, so I have the Fiji jersey. I'd love to swap with Patty if he wants it and get an Ireland jersey as well."