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'Defeat will spur on young guys at Leinster'

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Gordon D'Arcy, Leinster

Gordon D'Arcy, Leinster

Gordon D'Arcy, Leinster

And so Leinster prepare for the business end of the season, albeit without the significant business of a European run-in to occupy their minds for the first time since 2008.

At once, it highlights the remarkable run of recent success that propelled them into Europe's rarefied stratosphere of high achievers, while at the same time exposing the remarkable dip in standards from those that sustained them in recent years.

"Time heals all," muses Gordon D'Arcy, the return of his facial fireguard hinting at some sagacity amid all the predictable outpourings of anguish from supporters who have grown accustomed to success since their '09 breakthrough in Europe.

Those of a less recent vintage, including D'Arcy himself, would do well to remember a couple of years before then of consistent underachievement.

"Only a couple?" observes D'Arcy. There is blessed relief that some levity remains amid the ruins.

Leinster forged their breakthrough aided by stellar signings – from Rocky Elsom to Brad Thorn – and there will be clamours for further reinforcements to outweigh the impending losses of Brian O'Driscoll and Leo Cullen.

"You're the benchmark if you have pretty deep pockets," D'Arcy remarks, when asked if the reigning champions have replaced Leinster as the European standard bearers.

But he insists that Leinster can accommodate a brighter future from within their own ranks, rather than relying on outside influences, which, given the loss of Johnny Sexton last season, may prove beyond their pockets, not to mention those of the IRFU.

"We've got to look at the collective rather than the individual," he stresses, placing the emphasis on replicating what made Leinster rise to pre-eminence before. "When individual brilliance happens, then great, but we've got to look more at the collective. That's worked for us, it's a proven thing for us. When the team functions, that collective, we're pretty hard to deal with."

That younger swathe of Leinster players, who have become so familiar with ascending plinths to raise trophies skywards, must now now direct themselves towards the new challenge of restoring Leinster's European credentials.

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"I've nothing but absolute faith in these lads," asserts D'Arcy, who himself is nearer the exit door than many of his ilk, but still strives to collect every available piece of silverware on offer.

"They have delivered. You don't win trophies with guys who are a little bit suspect character wise.

"There are older guys moving on, Brian and Leo, so there will be responsibility on younger guys to come through and drive that ethos of Leinster and that character that we show."

GREATNESS

The culture that ignited Leinster's ascension to greatness must now re-inspire from within as they seek to retain their domestic pre-eminence by securing back-to-back league titles. "It was a lot worse yesterday, it was a little bit better today and it will be a bit better again tomorrow and then you're playing," he says, ahead of this week's trip to Ospreys, a side who have yet to trouble the top-four play-off contenders this term.

"You have to be a good professional, you have to let this kick you on to the next challenge and there is still more silverware up for grabs – it would be an awful lot worse place if we didn't.

"We have the Pro12 to go after and get that comfort of a home semi-final. We've just seen how hard it is for an away team, the statistics go with the home team in the knock-outs. It is hard, though. You want to be competing at Heineken Cup level and we did leave a few opportunities out there."

His message to supporters is not to regret what has happened, but rejoice in what may yet happen. "Ah, absolutely," he affirms. "We looked at this game pretty objectively and said we lost the breakdown. But even if we had taken the three opportunities that came our way, if we took one of them, and got a try straight away... We know we are going to be able to compete, we know we are going to be healthy.

"The young guys coming through, all these lads, Jordi Murphy getting a bit of time on the pitch, Dave Kearney, they have had a lot of success and now they have the bitter side of it. That's going to spur them on for the next few years. Our fans, they deliver for us, time and time again. They did so down in Toulon and we will deliver for them again. We're sure of that."

This is the message that will drive the squad on to ensuring that they end a season with a declaration that their absence from Europe's final washout is but a temporary aberration.


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