IRELAND’S enduring centre Gordon D’Arcy has been reinvigorated under the supervision of Leinster coach Joe Schmidt.
The province is riding the crest of a wave at the moment by combining those two often uncomfortable bedfellows: entertaining and winning. The pursuit of panache and points is happening in tandem.
“It’s great. I think the biggest compliment I can pay him (Schmidt) is that I’m 30 going on 31 and I’m still learning new tricks and new ways of doing things,” said D’Arcy. “That probably reflects in the way we are all playing, in that we are all still learning and even the old guys have new challenges every week. “It’s enjoyable to be playing and training at the moment.
“He is a high-standards man. You want to hit his standards.
“He reinforces that with you but we are the ones that have to bring it on to the pitch. He is constantly on about standards in everything, not just on the pitch.”
The graph of Ireland’s elite players rises and subsides at the critical crossroads of a season. The Heineken Cup and Six Nations are always the peak points, with the World Cup coming around every four years.
In the past, when the big cats have been away, the meeker have not been able to play to the standards deemed good enough to take points.
The advent of forwards Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan and Sean O’Brien, and backs Eoin O’Malley, Fergus McFadden, Andrew Conway and Dave Kearney, has given Leinster increasing back-up quality.
“It is great for the team. One of the biggest issues we’ve had is when we’ve had internationals away, teams have targeted Leinster and we may have dropped points when we haven’t had the so-called starters playing,” stated D’Arcy.
“You look right across that team and nobody looks out of place and everybody is fighting for positions.
“Competition breeds competition and I’m sure Joe has a little headache now when it comes to selection.”
Ospreys, the Magners League champions, will come to the RDS on Friday knowing they have what it takes to win there.
They will carry no fear, no inferiority complex. Leinster will bring a degree of hurt to the contest. “We did lose the Magners League final at home so that obviously stings a little bit. “You don’t want a repeat of that,” insisted D’Arcy.
“We had a look at it during the video session and it’s gas because you really do have every game in your own hands. “The mistakes we made then almost look childish or schoolboy-like. “They wouldn’t have happened on Saturday.”
This suggests that D’Arcy believes Leinster are playing as well, or better, now with those contesting starting spots as they did with the more renowned names in place for the Grand Final last May.
In turn, this must drive the D’Arcys, O’Driscolls, Sextons and Heaslips on to play at the peak of their powers because the young pups are growing fast and learning quickly.