D’Arcy ready to lock horns with Marshall
Irish veteran looking forward to pitting his wits against his young Ulster rival
This day was always going to come. That it has taken 10 years is testament to the durability and constantly evolving talent that is Gordon D’Arcy.
Finally, aged 33, he is being questioned about facing up to an heir apparent this Saturday night at the RDS.
Presuming Luke Marshall, aged 22, has got through the “rigorous” IRB concussion regulations, having sustained a second head trauma in less than a week against Italy, the battle for Ireland’s number 12 jersey can really commence.
Not many expected the debate to happen this season. Sure, Marshall exuded all the necessary qualities when tearing up a meek Fijian midfield last November, but D’Arcy’s ability to grow into a campaign was still evident by the time the Six Nations rolled around.
Then came the foot injury. Marshall was promoted, instantly breaking the line against Scotland and making his tackles, bringing a different dimension to the ultra-reliable D’Arcy. A kicking game.
The veteran agrees: “He’s taken his chance very well. Really solid player, he’s got the full array of talents. He’s a good kicker, distributor and a solid guy . . .I enjoyed playing against him the last time we played. It would be nice to see how it goes again.”
Neither is your modern inside centre. Both are in the Roy Jones Jnr mould; dominant and dazzling middleweights, always forced to find new levels of resilience when faced by heavyweights like Jamie Roberts, Sonny Bill Williams, Ma Nonu or Wesley Fofana.
The difference is D’Arcy has proved himself against these giants in Test match collisions time and again. Marshall did hold his own before getting knocked unconscious. Twice.
“I have always thrived in pressure situations and playing against the best players in the world so I hope he does play so we can see how we fare against each other.”
Who knows, they could form a partnership on the North American tour this summer or next November, should Brian O’Driscoll retire.
The other intriguing face-off in Ballsbridge on Saturday will occur a step inside them.
With the excuse that Ian Madigan has played too much rugby at fullback this season firmly quashed, and Paddy Jackson’s continuing low percentage return off the kicking tee, Declan Kidney’s big call at outhalf looks more flawed than ever.
Madigan was sensational against Glasgow, his 70 metre dash, flawless place-kicking and match-winning try arguably overshadowed by a chip, catch, offload initiated inside his in-goal area. Never mind Jackson, it felt like he was calling out Quade Cooper.
“Yeah, he’s a very exciting kind of guy. We’ve been training and playing with him for a couple of years now so we always knew he has the full package,” said D’Arcy.
“ He’s able to kick, run, pass and is a good solid defender. His game management is something that has been talked about in the last couple of weeks but that seems to be coming on leaps and bounds in every game. His place kicking, in very difficult conditions at the weekend, was very good. As a 12 you want your 10 to talk, make the decisions early and with clarity so we have a clear view of how we want to play the game. We have that with Ian.”