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Dublin: 6 °C Sunday 20 October, 2019

'The best 31 players are there and I've no regrets about that' - D'Arcy is retiring with a clean slate

Gordon D’Arcy talks retirement, the World Cup and THAT Sam Burgess column.

Gordon D'Arcy Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

LAST SUNDAY WAS a new experience for Gordon D’Arcy.

For the first time in as long as he can remember, he sat in the stands and watched Ireland as a fan. No studying the game, no analysing the opposition, just sitting back, soaking up the atmosphere and being an Irish fan

It was a new experience, but he loved it.

Retirement is officially three weeks away, but with a shoulder problem picked up in pre-season still gnawing away at him, the likelihood is that he’s played his final game in Leinster’s blue.

That doesn’t bother him though, his send off from the RDS in May was a perfect way to say thank you and goodbye. And although the ultimate goal was to make it back to a fourth World Cup, he’s departing stage left with no regrets.

“I’d be very surprised (to play again). It’s unfortunately an injury that’ll need assessing again, but there’s probably a little too much damage there.

“I got to play for my childhood club since U16s, right up to the senior team and representing them over 250 times. I gave everything to get into the World Cup squad, and the best 31 players are there and I’ve no regrets about that. It didn’t happen for me.

“Shane Horgan talked to me about it and he said, this is the final dot in a career that’s spanned 18 year. It’s not going to define my career.”

The next chapter is just about to begin. Alongside his wife Aoife, he co-owns the Form School Pilates studio on Grattan Street in Dublin, as well as the Exchequer winebar in Ranelagh.

He’s been down to Cork to learn more about whiskey distillation, and recently helped launch Powers new whiskey, the ‘Three Swallow Release’ in Dublin.

Powers Three Swallows 16 D'Arcy and his Leinster teammate Mike McCarthy at the launch of the Powers Three Swallows Whiskey.

It’s something he’s clearly passionate about, mentioning the warm fire in Kelly’s Hotel in Rosslare, sipping away for the evening.

A media career doesn’t seem to be on his radar though. His column in the Irish Times has been a hit, and the criticism of Sam Burgess last week was repeated the world over.

But he’s not hoping it’s the start of something bigger. At the time, he didn’t even realise what he was saying about the English centre was hugely controversial. But that’s tye nature of the World Cup. Everything becomes a story.

“I think it was very much a storm in a teacup, any news is big news during the World Cup. The content in my article is very hard to argue with, and I have a well educated argument for anybody who’d like to discuss it wit me. But I think it was definitely a storm in a tea-cup.

“Everything I said still stands. England need a second set of hands in the centre, and I think Henry Slade has been unlucky to only get his chance in the last game. In all the warm-up games. I was really impressed with him above everybody else.”

As part of Ireland’s class of 2007, he can empathise with those English players. Huge expectations just never came together, and the fallout was hard to take.

But when the Six Nations rolls around and the slate is wiped clean, he says it’s now an opportunity for the younger generation to take it and turn disappointment into opportunity.

A dejected Gordon D'Arcy after the game D'Arcy says he knows exactly what England's players are going through. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I know exactly what it feels like. It’s a terrible place to be, but it will probably make a generation of English players. There’s probably a couple of guys there who probably won’t play a huge amount more, but then there’s a whole generation – George Ford, Jonathan Joseph, Anthony Watson – it’s going to solidify them and make them more determined to succeed in the future.”

Sam Burgess wasn’t the only test centre whose position has been up for debate. Jared Payne missed last week’s win against Italy with a bruised foot, but his long-term future at outside centre was a major talking point, with The42 columnist Peter Stringer believing that Keith Earls should keep the number 13 jersey.

But D’Arcy is firmly in the Jared Payne camp, saying that our long-term relationship with Brian O’Driscoll will always lead us to picking faults in whoever wears the jersey.

The challenge, he says, isn’to to find another Brian O’Driscoll, but to find an outside centre.

“For me, Jared is a player’s player. He does a lot of work that make things easier for other people.”

“We’re probably spoiled as a nation having had Brian as our outside centre. Jared’s not that player and he’ll never be that player. He’s his own man and he has his own attributes.”

Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“They (Payne and Henshaw) are 100 percent the best centre partnership. People have very short memories, against South Africa they were fantastic and against Scotland they were fantastic again. They haven’t had the game time over the summer to push on, and when they get that they’ll grow more as a partnership.”

He may not have been thoroughly analysing the game at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday, but like all Irish fans he could see the performance was below the usual Joe Schmidt standard.

But with a quarter final place now secure, it’s job done so far. In reality their quarter-final fate was always going to come down to October 11 and France.

Having worked with Schmidt for three years at Leinster and two more with Ireland, he’s grown to understand the Kiwi’s forward thinking, and he’s confident that there are a few tricks up the sleeve to deal with Phillipe Saint-Andre’s side.

“I genuinely think Joe has played his calculated game to get to this point without having shown a huge amount of his hand, and now it’s time to expand that.

“It’ll have to be different. If we play like the way we play against Italy I’d be very surprised if we win that game. I’d say we’ll see an expansion on the gameplan and how it’s executed and played.”

Joe Schmidt Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

He’s not expecting a pretty game though. When the sides met in the Six Nations in February it was the boots of Johnny Sexton and Ian Madigan that sent Ireland over the line.

That accuracy off the tee is set to be vital again, with D’Arcy predicting  another low-scoring affair.

“They (France) are focused on this game, there’s no other way of saying it. They’ve been playing mind games in the media, being a bit Laissez-faire about the Irish team and trying to dismiss an Irish aura that they feel exist.

“I didn’t bring my crystal ball with me, but I do think Ireland will create linebreaks and they’ll score their penalties.”

And with bonus points irrelevant, the permutations are simple.

“Win by a point and you avoid New Zealand. Lose by a point and you play New Zealand.”

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About the author:

Neil Treacy

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