New-boy given Pat on the back

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PAT Richards has backed his old Wests team-mate Chris Heighington to go down a storm with English fans.

Heighington – who was born in Australia but has an English father – was a surprise inclusion in Steve McNamana’s England squad for the forthcoming Four Nations.

The Wests back-rower is a relatively new name to followers of English rugby league, but he needs no introduction to Richards, who played alongside him in the NRL between 2004-5.

And the Warriors winger has promised the English fans his old pal will not let anyone down when the action begins for real next weekend.

“Chris was in the same side as me and he was part of the team that won the Grand Final,” Richards said.

“His career has gone better and better, he’s getting better with age and I think he’ll do a really good job for England.

“He has been one of the best players in the Tigers team for the last couple of years.”

Heighington (right) had previously rejected overtures to represent England, but recently had a change of heart and has pledged allegiance to father Tom’s homeland.

And Richards, who himself was born Down Under but plays for Ireland through his ancestry, says Heighington’s ‘Englishness’ should not be called into question.

“I never met his old man but he talked about it a bit, about coming over here and playing for England,” Richards revealed.

“It wasn’t a spur of the minute thing – he’s been keen for a while.

“I know what it’s like to have the ties to two countries.

“I was born in Australia but, at the same time, all of my family is from Ireland and I’m really proud to represent Ireland.

“I feel like I’m representing my family and making them proud, and I’m sure that’s how Chris will feel playing for England.”

Richards also backed the right of Rangi Chase to turn out for McNamara’s men, despite being born in New Zealand and turning out against England for both the NZ Maori and the Exiles in the past.

Richards feels Chase, another former Wests Tigers man, will give England something different in the halves, where he’ll come into contact with mutual friend Benji Marshall of the Kiwis.

“Rangi was always hanging around Benji, they went to school together and had that connection,” he added.

“They both play it off-the-cuff, they were always great kids and he’s very talented.”