Gordon D’Arcy taking lots of positives from defeat
‘A lot of young guys are going to gain invaluable experience from this’
Ireland’s Gordon D’Arcy is tackled by England’s Dylan Hartley. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
What is most admirable about Gordon D’Arcy and his centre partner is their refusal to go quietly. Or give an inch to those seeking to surpass them both within the Ireland squad and amidst the swirling tempest of a brutal Test match.
Thrice during their final Twickenham trench warfare together we squealed for D’Arcy to fling a left-handed pass to wider plains so as to break the suffocating grip of England’s white rope. He took a more congested route each time but still made us laugh aloud with that uncanny impersonation of David Wallace bludgeoning through in traffic.
Already 33, he will never become the prototype Joe Schmidt envisages a ‘second-five-eight’ to be, but D’Arcy’s herculean performance – 11 shuffling carries, 12 manipulative tackles – makes him a propeller on Ireland’s aircraft.
The lucky ones remember the fields he scorched, all burly while donned in purple and white in these very same months way back in 1997 and 1998.
He is different now. Now he preaches to the unwashed about professionalism, about accepting defeat, even on a haunting night like Saturday.
All of his words emanate from an unteachable, insatiable desire to die a winner. No fear, no envy, no meanness.
“I believe you got to live a win and you got to live a defeat as well. Personally, I’ve never been afraid of failing and losing a game. That happens in sport but you got to keep moving forward. We can’t let this game derail the rest of the championship. It’s happened and it’s over. We’ve got to look forward now.”
Twickenham is darkness but the city of blinding lights follows on March 15th.
Be it his naked desire, so evident 48 hours before the attempted murder of All Blacks, or under the horrid glare of English grins, you get out of the road and let him strum out the practicalities of why it went wrong.
A query to meet his introspective mind: How much and for how long do you beat yourself up?
“Initially, it’s a very individual thing. It’s personally going to hurt me quite a bit. Like, how many more times am I going to get?
“I’ve had some really good performances here, some really good victories and this is one of those almost moments in Twickenham and they hurt the most because you have that inner belief and innate sense that we could have won this game.
“When you haven’t, it is quite hard.
“But the sun’s going to come up tomorrow morning. Everything will be put in perspective. We’ll have to, not rally the troops, but just be good professionals.”
Danny Care’s stunning try was the only flaw he identified in Ireland’s scramble defence. Such was the organisation and ferocity of England’s wall, it seemed like Ireland needed to gather points off first or second phase attacks.
Such a theory was not deep enough for D’Arcy.
“No, I wouldn’t agree with that. We put Dave Kearney up the touchline twice after seven, eight, nine phases. Once you get over six phases it doesn’t matter how good your team is defences are going to struggle.
“But we were inaccurate in their 22 in those last 10 minutes.”
A stumble under Joe then or something deeper? “It’s probably a bit early to say if it was a stumble or watershed moment. In three, four games time we will be able to say this was whatever it was.
“There will be a lot of positives to take from this . . . We’ve still got a points difference. We played a lot of positive rugby, we came here to play, we said we would and we delivered on that.
“Our accuracy around the fourth, fifth ruck, we can definitely improve on that.”
Sloppiness in possession is mentioned. “You got to put that in context of the really, really aggressive English defence. They choose their moments to come off the line and they usually corresponded with a turnover or a steal or a messy ruck or a foot in the ruck. Or something.”
He makes the easy assumptions redundant. The Sexton restart was not as significant as the untrained eye would tell you.
“Joe is a big man for momentum in games and being able to recapture it when you lose it.
“It wasn’t solely down to inaccuracy on our part it was down to good play from an English team. Was it out of our control? Probably not and we have to accept that.
“We’ve a lot of young guys in our team as well. A lot of young guys and they are going to gain invaluable experience from this. That experience is gained now and if it comes to the fore in three weeks time when we are in Paris it’s almost worth it.”
Now, wouldn’t it be great to hear him again as midnight approaches in Paris. Hear him battered, haggard yet living a victory.