D'Arcy was in strong form for Leinster on Friday, while his beard remains world-class. Inpho/Billy Stickland

Return of 'quality' Gordon D'Arcy important for O'Connor's Leinster

The 34-year-old played in both centre positions against the Cardiff Blues on Friday night.

GORDON D’ARCY WAS man of the match for Leinster on his first start of the season on Friday night, a strong opening marker from a man who looks like being vital for the province during this campaign.

With other leaders having departed in recent times, the 34-year-old centre will take on an even more important leadership role than in the past. Whether that is at 13 or 12 remains to be seen.

D’Arcy started at outside centre against the Cardiff Blues, completing a smart 40-minute shift, before moving in one position after the interval due to a backline reshuffle when Rob Kearney departed with a dead leg.

Back at inside centre, D’Arcy began to dominate the midfield, sparking Mick McGrath’s try with a gorgeous pass, scoring himself, defending with a striking calmness and generally contributing smart plays.

D’Arce was very good,” said Leinster coach Matt O’Connor post-match. “He had to chop around in the midfield there at 13 and 12 in the second half. He was very good; he’s pretty experienced and he knows what he’s doing.”

That D’Arcy’s passing was perhaps the stand-out feature of his performance bodes well for Leinster. The Ireland centre has been more accustomed to a ball-carrying and rucking role in recent seasons, but demonstrated on Friday that his distribution skills remain.

“He’s a quality player, he’s proved that over 17 seasons,” agreed O’Connor. “If there’s opportunities for us to expose teams on the edges, we’ll take those and we were lucky enough to take those [against Cardiff].”

So where does O’Connor intend to use D’Arcy this season? The Australian was giving nothing away: ”He’ll play where he’s told, is usually how it works!”

Gordon D'Arcy beats Dan Fish to score a try D'Arcy scored a second-half try after a Gopperth offload. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Hooker Sean Cronin welcomed the return of D’Arcy as Leinster prepare to face Munster at the Aviva Stadium, while also highlighting the benefit of using Jimmy Gopperth and Ian Madigan as a 10-12 axis.

“I thought D’Arce fitted in very well,” said Cronin. “He’s just a class act with his lines of running and he was at 12 and 13 tonight. He just brings a huge bit of experience and stability when he’s in there. It’s always great to play with him.

You’ve got Jimmy and Mads at 10 and 12, which is great for distribution to forwards, so it’s great to have him back.”

With the likes of Madigan, Noel Reid, Brendan Macken, Fergus McFadden and potentially Luke Fitzgerald providing further options in midfield for O’Connor, there is at least a variety of combinations to ponder.

Ben Te’o was superb on his return from a four-game ban in the South Sydney Rabbitohs’ 32-22 win over the Roosters in the NRL Preliminary Finals on Friday. Any Leinster fan who witnessed his physical display will surely have been enthused.

The Samoan international will add another dimension to Leinster’s midfield stable with his explosive power and aggression, which could serve as the ideal balance alongside a more creative option in midfield.

D’Arcy has given O’Connor a reminder that he possesses those subtle skills, as well as his continuing ability to make yards in contact and organise a defensive line.

D’Arcy in superb form as Leinster run four tries past Cardiff

O’Connor wants 80-minute display as disjointed Leinster prepare for Munster

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