Gordon D'Arcy on World Cup ambitions: I'm happy once I can look myself in the mirror
Gordon D'Arcy is refusing to give up on making the World Cup but the Ireland veteran knows he's running out of time.
Despite his insistence that he is not disappointed at being dropped entirely by Ireland and from the Leinster starting team in all of their important games since Christmas, the 82-capped international's pride must have been a tad dented.
He put up a brave face at his province's UCD base yesterday as he fulfilled his first media obligations since being cut from Joe Schmidt's squad mid-Six Nations, but knows the window of opportunity is barely ajar.
He is likely to start at inside centre for the province against the Newport Gwent Dragons on Sunday, the only chance he'll have to impress Matt O'Connor before the Champions Cup semi-final trip to Marseille to face Toulon a week later.
In turn, his hopes of forcing his way back into Schmidt's plans for the World Cup are predicated on a strong finish to Leinster's season, playing in the biggest games and getting the most out of the campaign by ensuring his side are fighting on two fronts well into late May.
Usually, it's young guns who go to Rodney Parade to make an impression while the experienced heads are rested, but this week the roles are reversed for the two-time Lions tourist and he knows just what's at stake.
"Listen, you do your job as best you can," he explained of his approach to Sunday's make-or-break outing. "You try to make the players around you look good, play well for the other players around you, put the ball in the right hands in the right places.
"You have to rely that the guys who are grading you and picking the team see all the bits and pieces you do that someone on TV might not look at - see you are in the right places, doing your job, working hard for the team.
"If you do all those things, you put yourself into it and then you've just got to put it down to selection. Once you can step off the pitch, look yourself in the mirror, in the eye, 'I did everything I could'. You get picked - great. You don't get picked. What can you do?"
He knows the door isn't closed and has spoken to Schmidt and O'Connor about their reasons for leaving him out. Both said game-time is the key to a return. Getting off Leinster's bench and into the team is the key and after the defence looked somewhat porous against the English side last weekend, he might be eyeing an opening.
"It's very much the same conversation. It is 'get a run of games'," he said of the exchanges before being asked if playing in games like the semi-final against Toulon is the key to earning a World Cup berth.
"100 per cent," he admitted. "You've just got to be playing. When you get on the pitch, even if it's off the bench, if that's my role, that's my role. I will do whatever is best for Leinster to try and win silverware.
"If that has to be what it is for now and it leads into something great in the autumn, that's fantastic.
"All I can worry about is the next game, Sunday, that's all I can control. If I play my best game there, and that gets me into the team, great. If I play my best game and it doesn't get me into the team, I've done all I can.
"At least, I'm making him have a think about it. That's all you can ever expect. If he's honest with you and you're happy with the chain of communication with the coach - I have a great relationship with all the coaching staff - it's good."
D'Arcy is bullish about their chances of ending Toulon's dominance of Europe as they look to learn from the mistakes of last season's defeat when they take on the champions in Marseille on Sunday week.
The centre believes the key to beating Bernard Laporte's three-in-a-row chasers is staying with them for an hour and taking every chance that presents itself. Toulon beat Leinster 29-14 at the quarter-final stage last year and D'Arcy wants them to learn their lesson.
"We had opportunities to score tries. We didn't take them, you can't do that," he said. "The further you go along in a competition, you might get six chances in the qualifying rounds, you might get four in the quarter. We had three chances and we didn't convert one.
"We scored a try, but the game was dead. It was too little, too late. They had steamrolled us at that stage.
"You need to be with them at 60 minutes. That's when they can begin to look around and panic a little bit. We were with them at 40 minutes and then we coughed up."
The 35-year-old says he hasn't considered his future beyond the end of his 17th season as a professional rugby player, but says his love for his job remains strong.
"I still enjoy it," he explained. "I was doing fitness today with 20-year-olds. I'm still keeping up with them, still going ahead of them on one or two runs. I am a competitive person. I enjoy the drive. I am not ready to finish.
"I've been that guy who's been left out plenty of times in my career. It is not that hard.
"Someone can roll an ankle tomorrow or next Tuesday and you could be catapulted straight back in."