18 May, 15:44
It's down to the wire now for the five contenders who have been shortlisted for the ultimate individual accolade in northern hemisphere rugby, ERC European Player of the Year 2013.
So as the ercrugby.com guest columnist looks forward to the showdown between Munster and London Wasps at Lansdowne Road on Sunday, you can be sure he will have some sage advice for the visitors.
"I never lost as a player at Lansdowne Road. I won there three times with England and once with Leicester in a Heineken Cup match against Leinster," said Richards.
"It is a record I'm immensely proud of and, quite frankly, a little bit amazed by Ireland, and Dublin in particular, is a fantastic place to visit and welcomes visitors with open arms.
"What I learned down the years is that you must never confuse the warmth of the welcome off the field with the warmth of the welcome you can expect on it. While the people are prepared to do anything for you as a guest in their country, their rugby players will do anything to kick lumps out of you.
"The one thing London Wasps must be wary of as they bid to reach their first Heineken Cup final is they don't get sucked into feeling that everyone loves them, wants them to do well and that they are going to get an easy ride. Cometh the hour at Lansdowne Road, cometh all manner of strange things.
"When I was playing for England we used to fly into Dublin on the Thursday, train and then go out in the evening to the Rose and Crown pub for one beer. That one drink inevitably turned into three or four because every time our glass was empty there would be another full pint in front of us.
"It was all part of the cunning plan, as was offering us huge helpings of all the wonderful food and ensuring there were Mars bars and other goodies available in our bedrooms. By the time we ran out to play on the Saturday we were all bloated."
But the friendly reception Richards remembers so well from his playing days contrasted dramatically with the welcome the Irish players reserved for the English players on the field.
"Everything was so wonderful in the build-up to the game and then you would get onto the field and they would kick the **** out of you for 80 minutes. What a change in attitude," recalled Richards.
"Dublin is a great place to play, with a special atmosphere all of its own, but only if you are properly prepared. The one thing Wasps must not do if they are to stand any chance of beating Munster is think for one moment that things are going to be easy for them.
"It will help them that a number of their players have won at Lansdowne Road before and that Warren Gatland obviously knows the ground so well from his days as the Irish coach. I'm sure Warren will be looking forward to going back to Dublin, but he is too good a coach to harbour any thoughts of turning the game into a mission to prove a point.
"What is at stake is a place in the Heineken Cup final, the biggest club competition in the northern hemisphere, and that is a big enough prize to focus on. If Wasps take their eye off becoming only the fourth English club to reach the final then they won't make it.
"They have to be as focussed and clinical as they were in their demolition of Gloucester in the quarter-finals. Their defence in that game was awesome and will have to be as water tight again against a Munster team that will be backed by a huge crowd.
"Hats off top Munster, when they get to the business end of the Heineken Cup they certainly know what to do. They built up a huge head of steam in the first quarter against Stade Francais in the last round and were able to turn that tricky quarter-final into a comfortable victory in the end.
"I'm sure Alan Gaffney won't have been happy at seeing his side concede four tries, and I think they have a few defensive frailties that Wasps will be looking to exploit, but they will be a formidable outfit. Just as Biarritz managed to do in their quarter-final triumph at Stradey Park, when they subdued Llanelli Scarlets and their fans in the first 20 minutes, Wasps must find a way to stop Munster getting off to a flying start.
"It's all about taking the string out of opposition both on and off the field. If Wasps can get an early score then that will go a long way to diffusing some of the atmosphere. But if they don't, then look out."
It all sounds so easy, doesn't it. Keep off the Heineken, push the Mars bars away, don't listen to a kind word anyone says, expect the worst and more when the game starts and score a try within the first few minutes. Wasps, you have been warned.