The former Leicester and England No8 will be one of the front-runners to take over the national team if Brian Ashton pays the penalty for England's dismal World Cup campaign.
And Richards chose to emphasise the contributions made by talented young backs like wing Mike Brown (22), who was capped in South Africa this summer, and England Under-20 pair Danny Care (20) and Jordan Turner-Hall (19).
His domestic philosophy is in stark contrast to a Rugby World Cup squad relying on over-35s like Mike Catt, Lawrence Dallaglio and Mark Regan.
"We've blooded youngsters over the last two years and they're starting to get international recognition," said Harlequins coach Richards.
"The likes of Mike Brown and [injured England wing] Dave Strettle are all young and then you have to take into account the fact that we've got a young scrum half in Danny Care, Jordan Turner-Hall at centre and Ugo Monye on the wing is still only 24.
"When you have a small squad it gives opportunities. Our youngsters have really stepped up to the mark and they're getting wiser as a result."
Turner-Hall, Tom Williams, Ollie Kohn and Hal Luscombe scored the Harlequins tries with new recruit Chris Malone kicking three penalties and three conversions.
David Paice touched down for Irish but their other two tries - from Steffon Armitage and Richard Thorpe - came too late to turn the tide. Debutant Jeremy Staunton converted all three and added two penalties.
"We totally dominated the first half, the second was give and take and we deserved to win," said Richards. "There's a quiet confidence in the camp and if we lose games it's generally because we shoot ourselves in the foot rather than other sides beating us."
London Irish boss Brian Smith bemoaned some finishing errors - Delon Armitage and Topsy Ojo among the culprits - that prevented the Exiles from getting back into the game.
"We were a bit of a soft touch in the first half, they outmuscled us and I was definitely disappointed with the performance," said Smith.
"We had a lot to say at half-time, we dictated the tempo after then and at 15-6 down it was still winnable.
"I'm not singling people out but there were probably four good try-scoring opportunities and if we'd have taken them we'd have stolen a win we probably didn't deserve.
"It's only round one of 22 and we'll just have to take this kick up the tail and make sure we're better prepared against Newcastle Falcons next week."