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'The carousel has to finish at some stage, the balloon has to pop'

The end is in sight for Gordon D’Arcy, but he’s not slowing down.

Image: Inpho/Billy Stickland

GORDON D’ARCY CAN describe the magnitude of the World Cup in remarkably personal terms.

After a career that (when it eventually comes to a close in October) will span five tournaments, this week has given the retiring 35-year-old his first opportunity to bask first-hand in the glow of the golden Webb Ellis Cup.

Three days later, he wound up in the trophy’s company a second time. Typical.

Before he allows himself time to sit back and daydream about being able to hold the trophy without anyone fearing a jinx, the Land Rover ambassador has himself geared up for one last big push.

“I am absolutely busting a nut to get into the squad, and not just into the squad but into the starting line-up,” says D’Arcy before explaining that his omission from Ireland’s squad in the latter half of the Six Nations wasn’t quite as black and white as it may seem from the outside. Joe Schmidt after all, knows exactly what the veteran centre could bring to the table and D’Arcy sure as hell isn’t about to let it slip his mind.

“I didn’t stay in the training squad because there was no need for me to be in the training squad. He [Schmidt] was happy to bring other players in and happy for me to come in if something happened. It meant I was able to prepare better for the Leinster games and I was actually pretty happy with how I played for Leinster during that Six Nations period.

“Joe was very involved in my decision and keen for me to stay on on the premise that I wasn’t coming to make up the numbers, but coming to fight for a number 12 spot.

“I wouldn’t be doing it if I wasn’t thinking that. And that was all he needed to hear. It was probably the shortest conversation I ever had with Joe.”

There’s fire in this ‘yellow belly’. So much that D’Arcy has jumped the gun a little on pre-season just to make sure he’s not left stuck on 82 caps regretting a premature fortnight in flip-flops.

The motivation is there, it is there in abundance. I’m up at six in the morning – I’m doing those extra yards and I’m doing it earlier. I’m doing it before everybody else to try and get a little jump on guys so that when we come into camp I’m already firing.”

Joe Schmidt and Gordon D'Arcy Source: James Crombie/INPHO

D’Arcy looks back on 2011 as a watershed when fitness and preparation was really taken to the next level for Irish professionals. Today, that means that players are driving high standards for one another even when they are on different continents. A quick glance on Twitter or Instagram is bound to include a player providing proof that they have found a gym to work out in, a place to make up for the well-deserved summer lapses in textbook nutrition. Approaching today’s training squad announcement and the final four months of his career, D’Arcy won’t be left behind.

“If you arrive in good shape then that’s just the bare minimum. It’s four months out from a World Cup, like. What else are you thinking? There’s guys doing boxing and lifting weights, far more than the bare minimum. Everyone is sleeping with one eye open thinking: ‘I’ve got a World Cup and I’ve got to be ready to go when I show up.’”

“I sat down with the Irish fitness coach in May and we planned out the whole summer, the training I’m doing is organised,” adds the Wexford man, still shorn of the beard that had threatened to become his trademark.

“It’s not me going off on a 40 kilometre cycle or anything like that. The science behind everything will have me ready to peak on the pitch in those warm-up games. You just have to be realistic: I’m 35 and I can’t do what I did when I was 30.

“If I train trained [in] the same volume in the same block period as I did when I was younger I would probably break down, but if I can spread it out over a longer period I’ll get more done and there will be less attrition on my body.”

Gordon D'Arcy and Isa Nacewa pose with the Rugby World Cup 2015 Defender as it brings the Webb Ellis Cup to Old Belvedere RFC as part of the Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour_1

D’Arcy is planning ahead and preparing for the challenges that come after hanging up the boots. Because he’s one of a fortunate breed of rugby players who have been able to set their own retirement date rather than have the news broken to them in a surgeon’s office. The redoubtable centre is ‘busting a nut’ so that he won’t find he has played himself to a standstill. There’s more to life than rugby, more than even that little chunky gold trophy he’s become accustomed to this week after almost two decades of admiration from afar.

“In four months’ time I’m going to wake up and being ache-free and pain-free.

“I’m going to spend time with my daughter and spend time with my wife and be able to plan stuff.

“It’s very daunting as well, this is essentially my 18th season starting. The last job I had was in Ferrycarrig working for Liam Griffin. What’s my skillset? Where do I go?

“I have my job for when I finish – all that kind of stuff – working in an office is something completely different. I’m used to working physically really, really hard and mentally doing a bit of video prep for games.

“Now it’s long days and everything like that. The carousel has to finish at some stage and the balloon has to pop.”

Gordon D’Arcy was speaking on behalf of Land Rover as part of a 100 Day Tour of the UK and Ireland for the Webb Ellis Cup. Land Rover’s #WeDealInReal Rugby World Cup 2015 campaign will champion rugby’s grassroots by putting local clubs on the global stage.

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Sean Farrell

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