Monday 23 October 2017

Gordon D'Arcy's future up in the air after Leinster decide against new contract offer

Legend could be forced abroad if he misses out on World Cup squad as he looks to bow out on own terms

Leinster's Gordon D'arcy in action during squad training
Leinster's Gordon D'arcy in action during squad training
David Kelly

David Kelly

MORE than once in the past year, Gordon D'Arcy has publicly expressed his disdain for a "long goodbye".

When the time came to quit, the Leinster legend's 35-year-old body would know the timetable better than his head and force the choice.

Now it seems that the decision could yet be taken out of his hands after it was revealed that, as it currently stands, there is no room on Leinster's roster for the veteran three-quarter.

Having already last month been evicted from the Ireland camp within which he had, barring injury, been ever present for almost as long as professionalism itself, there is a growing sense that others are accelerating a decision he may have hoped to have reserved for his own private deliberation.

And, while the Wexford man' competitive instinct demands that he retain the spirit necessary to persuade Ireland coach Joe Schmidt that he is worthy of a place in his World Cup squad, he may now have to pursue other options.


One of these could be to investigate the potential for a short-term playing contract in another jurisdiction, as there will be plenty of clubs in both England and France requiring cover for World Cup absentees for the first half of next season.

However, having recently started a family and new business in Dublin, it is unclear whether D'Arcy would be interested in uprooting himself even for just a short period of time overseas.

Coach Matt O'Connor hinted at one or two further confirmed signings to come in the next couple of weeks but there was minimal suggestion that D'Arcy might form one of their number.

Retirement may now be his only option if no new deal surfaces in the short-term for one of Ireland's most decorated players.

"It is great to get this news out there," said O'Connor of the 27 contract decisions as Leinster moved to complete most of their business ahead of next term.

"It's been a busy few months behind the scenes. It shows our supporters how we want to drive Leinster.

"Importantly I think it also shows how much we value the blokes in the environment already and what they bring as a collective.

"We are still looking at other options and players that we can bring in, and we hope to make an announcement with regard to one addition in the next week or so."

Added to the confirmation that Luke Fitzgerald's return to full fitness and form had been rewarded with a new two-year deal, the other major signings like Johnny Sexton's repatriation from Racing Metro and second-row Mick Kearney's capture had been well flagged in advance.

The decision to retain Zane Kirchner may be questioned by some Doubting Thomases given the Springbok's largely underwhelming form but international commitments will leave Leinster shy in the back three for long stretches next season.

Added to that, Isa Nacewa's return, which is also expected to be confirmed next week, with a two-year deal seemingly the scenario, will leave just one or two more spaces to be filled on the Leinster roster for next season, with Peter Stringer still being mooted as a short-term option as there will be no more overseas signings allowed.

O'Connor yesterday announced that tighthead Royce Burke-Flynn and loosehead Ian Hirst would be joining the province, as Leinster prepare to cope with the expected absence of four first-choice props for the World Cup campaign.

"A huge focus for Guy Easterby, Mick Dawson and me behind the scenes is the retention of key players within the environment," explained O'Connor.

"Twenty Leinster players were in the extended Irish camp recently during the Six Nations and it reflects very well on the set-up that we have here in Leinster that so many international-class players have chosen to put pen to paper with us and that they see their immediate future in a blue jersey."

There was specific reference to second-row Kearney, who has played 15 times for Connacht this season and returns to Leinster having represented the province at age grade level.

"We are delighted to secure the services of Mick Kearney," says O'Connor. "Leo Cullen and Marco Caputo have been very impressed with his progress and we think that he will contribute hugely to the set-up.

"He is also a young guy having just turned 24 so we very much see him developing as a player and I think he will benefit hugely from working directly with players of the experience of Devin Toner and Mike McCarthy."

Kearney added: "I am very happy to have signed on with Leinster and I look forward to working hard to add to a proven winning environment.

"I am very grateful to Connacht and all the staff and coaches over the years but in particular Eric Elwood, Dan McFarland and Pat Lam for the opportunities afforded to me since I made my debut in 2011.

"I am just focused now on finishing out the season with Connacht as best as I can."


Leinster's list also reflects the international commitments which will see a large swathe of their players decamp to Ireland duty for approximately four months of next season due to the World Cup and Six Nations.

"We are very proud of the lads and how they perform for Ireland when away, but the reality is that we take a considerable hit," said O'Connor.

"For example, we had five of the six Irish front-rowers for the majority of the Six Nations, with another three, Michael Bent, Richardt Strauss and Tadhg Furlong, in the training squad.

"With that in mind, it was important that we were able to secure cover and Royce Burke-Flynn and Ian Hirst will provide that.

"They have performed consistently well for Clontarf, and we also saw in a few games that they played with Leinster 'A' this season and when they have been in training with us that they are able to compete at this level.

"We have seen over the last few years just how productive the club game can be for us.

"Darragh Fanning has played 18 times for us this year, scoring six tries. Mick McGrath has played six times, with two tries. It is an area that we always looking at."

Players who signed new Leinster contrasts: J Sexton*, R Kearney*, L Fitzgerald*, D Toner*, F McFadden*, M Moore*, M Ross*, Z Kirchner*, J Murphy*, E Reddan*, I Boss*, S Cronin*, K McLaughlin*, D Ryan*, R Strauss*, M Kearney, N Reid*, B Byrne, E Byrne, J Conan, T Denton, D Fanning, D Leavy, C Marsh, L McGrath, M McGrath, C O'Shea, J Tracy, J Van der Flier, R Burke-Flynn, I Hirst.

* denotes internationals


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