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RugbyL: Richards aiming for winning send-off

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Wigan Warriors may be reeling from the loss of Sam Tomkins but Pat Richards is eyeing one last hurrah before the pair take to the NRL next season.

Tomkins's move to New Zealand Warriors, for a reported world-record fee of around £700,000 (830,000 euros, $1.12 million), was confirmed on Monday after months of speculation.

Richards, on the other hand, has known since April that he would be returning to the NRL and Wests Tigers -- the club he left in 2005.

Both have made their mark on Wigan's recent history, 2010 Man of Steel Richards has scored 168 tries in 222 games for the Warriors to date while Tomkins has joined him in collecting two Challenge Cups and a Super League title.

But with Leeds Rhinos standing between Wigan and another Old Trafford showpiece in the second of two Super League semi-finals on Friday, Richards admits the script could be written for the perfect send off to their Warriors careers.

"What stand out the most are the friendships I've made at the club and winning trophies," said the 31-year-old.

"I've been lucky enough to do that and I've got another opportunity, if we get through this week, to have another shot at a Grand Final."

The loss of 24-year-old Tomkins will be eased somewhat by the arrival of Matt Bowen after more than a decade with North Queensland Cowboys.

And Richards, who came up against Bowen in the 2005 NRL Grand Final, which saw Wests Tigers defeat the Cowboys 30-16, admits Wigan have made a shrewd signing.

"He'll add a lot to the Super League competition, not just Wigan," said Richards. "Positionally, I think he's one of the best in the world.

"He's great on his feet and he's got a great pass on him. He'll be a great replacement for Sam. He's a real quality player and I'm sure it won't take long for him to fit into the Wigan structure.

"The coaching staff will utilise his strengths and he'll certainly be a great signing."

Elsewhere, Warrington Wolves may have chosen to face League Leaders' Shield winners Huddersfield in the first semi-final on Thursday but head coach Tony Smith insists they aren't daunted by the Giants.

The Wolves had the luxury of choosing their last-four opponents under the Club Call system, earning the right through beating Leeds in their qualifying play-off match and Huddersfield losing theirs with Wigan.

The Giants have fallen victim to Warrington three times over the course of the season and Australian coach Smith is looking for that dominance to continue on Thursday evening.

"Huddersfield have had a terrific season and deserve all the plaudits that they've gained so far," said Smith. "But hopefully we can maintain our recent good form and take that into the match on Thursday.

"We've reached the exciting part of the year where everybody, the fans, the coaches and the players alike are on the edge of their seats with expectations of high-quality rugby league.

"The fact that we got this far meant that we'd be playing tough opposition whichever team we faced, we realised and expected that and look forward to the challenge it will bring."

str/bc

Thursday September 26

Warrington Wolves v Huddersfield Giants

Friday September 27

Wigan Warriors v Leeds Rhinos

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