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D'Arcy deal welcomed

THERE is a common bond between Leinster club and Ireland national coaches in that Joe Schmidt and Declan Kidney have refused to move Gordon D'Arcy to one side.

There have been long and consistent calls for another Clongowes Wood graduate, Fergus McFadden, to be given his head at inside centre for Leinster and Ireland.

Yet, Kidney and Schmidt have preferred the experience and proven road-worthiness of D'Arcy, 32, over the up-and-coming McFadden, 25, for the biggest games. For them, the future is here and now.

Perhaps, the latest example of D'Arcy's sure, steady hand at the till was his 78th-minute tackle that forced the ball out of Wesley Fofana's grasp to see Leinster through to their third Heineken Cup final in four years. It was the difference between heartbreak and possible glory.

At a time when left wing Luke Fitzgerald is on the cusp of resolving his contract saga with the Irish Rugby Football Union, D'Arcy has signed on for another two years.

"Gordon is a born-and-bred Leinster man and since his debut in 1998 he has been a highly consistent performer for Leinster. His competitiveness and ability have added huge value both on and off the field," said Schmidt.

"We're delighted that Gordon will be extending his long association with his home province and I am confident that he will continue to make a positive impression both on and off the field."

D'Arcy made his competitive debut for Leinster in 1998 and has gone on to make more than 200 appearances for his home province, winning two Heineken Cups in 2009 and 2011.

His international bow came as a callow 19-year-old at the Rugby World Cup in 1999, playing on the wing against Romania.

The move that accelerated his career was that from wing to centre in 2004 when he was the Six Nations Player of the Tournament as Ireland captured a Triple Crown.

Since then, a partnership developed between D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll that has endured through injury and over time, culminating in the 2009 Grand Slam.

He has also represented the British & Irish Lions on two tours, to New Zealand in 2005 and South Africa in 2009.

IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said: "Gordon is a wonderful servant for both Ireland and Leinster and this is proof of his undoubted talent that was identified at a very early age.

"I am delighted that he has committed himself to playing in Ireland and is another indicator of the successful policy of keeping as many of our top players here so that they can continue to contribute to the success of both Ireland and the provincial teams."