Monday 23 October 2017

D'Arcy hungry to fight on

Blues centre relishing clash with Ireland heir apparent Marshall as he eyes silver lining to injury-hit season

Gordon D’Arcy, here with Isaac Boss at Leinster training, is determined to hold onto his Ireland place and looking forward to facing Ulster rival Luke Marshall
Gordon D’Arcy, here with Isaac Boss at Leinster training, is determined to hold onto his Ireland place and looking forward to facing Ulster rival Luke Marshall
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

WHEREVER Gordon D'Arcy looks he sees a changing world, but he himself is determined to keep going.

Two years older than Isa Nacewa, who has decided to call it a day, and a year younger than his long-term centre partner Brian O'Driscoll, who is considering whether to do the same, D'Arcy has another year to go on his contract and is showing no signs of stopping.

On Friday, he will look the future in the eye as he takes on his heir apparent. Ulster's Luke Marshall took over D'Arcy's No 12 jersey after a foot injury ended the 33-year-old's Six Nations.

The young gun started off against Scotland with the kind of line-breaks that were once the Leinster centre's stock-in-trade, before concussions wrecked his own championship.

Evolved

The elder statesman's game has evolved over the years, but his absence was keenly felt during a disappointing Six Nations.

Now, having returned to action against Glasgow last weekend, he is relishing the prospect of taking on the young pretender on Friday night.

"He's a really solid player, does everything – he has got the full array of talent, he's a good kicker, a good distributor and a solid guy," D'Arcy enthused.

"So he's done very well when he's got his opportunity and you have to take your hat off to him. Hopefully he's back this week because I enjoyed playing against him, the last time we played. We'll see how we compare against each other again.

"I've always thrived on pressure situations and playing against the best players in the world, so I really hope that he does play and we get to see how we fare up against each other."

Another young man who has impressed D'Arcy is Leinster out-half Ian Madigan, whose virtuoso display won the game against Glasgow on Saturday night.

"Ian's a very exciting kind of guy," the inside-centre said. "He has the full package: he's able to kick, run, pass and he's a good, solid defender. His game management is probably the one thing that's been talked about in the last couple of weeks and that's been coming on leaps and bounds in every game – and I think his place-kicking, in very difficult conditions at the weekend, was very good.

"He's trained with two exceptional out-halves that have gone a little bit before him with Jonny (Sexton) and Felipe (Contepomi), so you can't help but learn off players like that."

The Six Nations injury epidemic, of which D'Arcy was a victim, has caused plenty of soul-searching in Irish rugby as it looks for answers.

But, the 74-times-capped player does not believe that the IRFU's player welfare system is the cause and instead blames the spate of injuries on bad luck.

"The programme doesn't become bad overnight. Our history of injuries and game management is probably one of the best in the world," he said.

"We've had a freakishly bad run of injuries but I don't think that is anything to do with the programme, that's just bad luck."

Looking on the bright side, D'Arcy reckons that missing the three tough internationals at the tail-end of the championship has left him fresh for this crucial run-in for Leinster.

"Those three matches were very physical, so hopefully for the end of the season there will be an extra little bit of gas in the tank," he said.

"I felt surprisingly good (against Glasgow), that's kind of a credit to the physios and the fitness guys we have here that I haven't been able to do a huge amount of volume on my feet, but looked reasonably able to play and was able to finish the 80 minutes with a bit of a spring in my step."

After an injury-disrupted start to the season that undermined their Heineken Cup defence, Leinster are hitting form.

Although not at their best against the Warriors at the weekend, they top the Pro12 table and face a flagging Ulster at the RDS on Friday. Seven days later, it's the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final against Wasps, and the prospect of being at home in the closing stages of both competitions is a very real prospect that is being seized on by the European champions.

"We're still in two competitions, so in a lot of ways we're in the exact same position we were in last year, so we have to manage the resources and prepare accordingly," D'Arcy explained.

"This year particularly, we have the opportunity to play two semis, and finals, at home so that's a huge, huge carrot to play for.

"I went through a very lean period with Leinster when we didn't even get within a sniff of silverware. Some people might look down their nose at the Amlin or the Pro12, but not us. For us, any silverware will do."

Irish Independent

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