'We're on the start of an exciting group'
The mood music in Aviva was the sustainability of players. How to bring them on, how to keep them there and how to fill in the holes when some are missing was a theme Declan Kidney warmed to in the afterglow of seven tries.
And as ever with Kidney and his players, unbridled joy at the breadth of victory was not the emotion worn on their sleeves. What was alive to all was that the younger string of partnerships in the stable have brought their own nuances to the team, their different energies and influences, and against Argentina those all came out to play.
“Just talking to Craig [Gilroy] , I said you’re here because you do what you do really well,” said Gordon D’Arcy. “And I told him to go out and do that today. He did it unbelievably well. He’s so hard to tackle, has the ability to shift on both feet.
“When he’s hit, he can spin and keep going. And he chased every ball. Defensively, he was solid. He had an exceptional game for a first cap.
“Initially you can see they’re confident but they’re also finding their feet. That lasts for a day and then it’s like they’ve been there for 10 years. That’s a good sign in the squad. When a couple of guys were removed, it was a seamless transition.”
D’Arcy, who came into the team 13 years ago, has the position and respect to share big ideas and although he might look at the age profile and see himself as one of the players next under threat, there’s a self-awareness that change is inevitable and in a team sense an absolute imperative.
Even the venerable inside centre, fully aware that the six Irish injured players will return, could sense that the evolution has gathered momentum and the spark in Ireland’s play was at least in part the natural impulses of younger players. Three first-time tries, Strauss, Zebo and Gilroy: what does that say?
“We’re definitely on the start of a really exciting group of players who are bringing their own unique brand to the Irish jersey,” added D’Arcy. “And I think you can see a definitive Irish way of playing that’s kind of different from all the provinces. The management have done a really good job in basing a game-plan around the strengths of the players.
“I came in 1999 to effectively an amateur game but I started getting paid. The level of professionalism now is incomparable. It’s like two different games. It’s unfair to compare. But they’re ready now. Look at Luke Marshall and Paddy Jackson.
“They’re 20 and 21, fully developed and ready to go and they would have done just as well today if they were thrown in now. The guys coming through now are athletes and mentally tough.
“They’ll have learned a lot from what they’ve seen. From the South Africa game, having to be mentally tough in a tough environment. And then today how pressure, pressure and pressure can create opportunities. Two different learning curves but both very important and hopefully they can combine for us going into the Six Nations.”
One of those, Gilroy, made Lansdowne Road the scene for his Boy’s Own start. Perhaps taking the words of D’Arcy to heart, the scripted passage of the opening minutes could not have been delivered with greater emotion. But Gilroy has a penchant for debut scores and catching the eye.
“I just really want to take them, I’m really eager to take them, and it just sort of happens. I’m delighted,” said Gilroy, who also scored in his club debut with Dungannon.
“I actually did,” said the 21-year-old. “I scored three, but I was playing for the Twos!”
For the debutant it was a family day as much as a rugby day. Everything a new experience, he was determined not to let it pass him by in a swirl without holding on to some of the memories. There was no one moment but the day was a highlight composed of different scenes. “I can’t really pick one [highlight],” he says.
“Just everything, from Tommy [Bowe] presenting me with my jersey at the Shelbourne before we came. I didn’t know that was going to happen and it did.
“The drive to the stadium and all the fans, the whole day was amazing. The anthem . . . If I had to say one, probably just the feeling after I scored and everyone came around me, I’ll never forget that.”