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Dublin: 9°C Sunday 16 May 2021

Leinster coach yet to decide BOD's long-term replacement

Matt O’Connor wants to explore his options before he fills the 13 jersey permanently.

Gordon D'Arcy might be wearing a different jersey this season.
Gordon D'Arcy might be wearing a different jersey this season.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

AFTER EVERY SINGLE Leinster team announcement this season, you can be forgiven to skipping straight to no13 on the list to see who is replacing Brian O’Driscoll that week.

Brendan Macken has played at outside centre in the first three league games but now Matt O’Connor has decided to go back to the future by naming veteran inside centre Gordon D’Arcy in the 13 role.

Far from being a regressive move, many want to see what D’Arcy can bring to the role this year, particularly with a skilled distributor like Ian Madigan inside him. O’Connor thinks D’Arcy’s experience and defensive capabilities will serve him well at 13.

“He understands the defence very well,” O’Connor said.

“He has played a lot of rugby and he communicates in defence very well. He will run a hard line for you and he is very, very experienced.”

O’Connor hasn’t definitively said who he envisions as O’Driscoll’s long-term replacement, and at the moment he has happy to almost have an outside centre by committee. Some of that is by choice – he says Luke Fitzgerald is another few weeks away from returning – but he also wants to see how different players perform in the role, especially incoming NRL centre Ben Te’o.

“Te’o will play there,” O’Connor said.

“D’Arce can play there. Macken has done a very good job there. Fergus can play there. We have a lot of options. It is relative to who is fit and what options we have as to who the combinations are.”

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O’Connor was also non-committal when asked if he had set a date for naming a full-time number 13.

“I don’t think you can be that definitive,” O’Connor said.

“I think you need to take a look and see what blokes are doing and how they are playing in that position as opposed to a perfect theory.”

After every game Gordon D’Arcy plays now, there seems to be questions of how much longer he can last in the professional game. And while D’Arcy himself has said that he isn’t looking ahead to the World Cup, his provincial coach thinks his body can hold up to the extent that he could play on after the marquee tournament.

“He has been pretty resilient in the short-term,” O’Connor said.

“He trucked on with that shoulder through most of last year and that was just a wear and tear issue.

“He has had a really good pre-season and he looks good. If we need to manage him we will manage him but at this stage I would imagine that he will be all right over the next 18 months to two years.”

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