Competitive Gordon D’Arcy is not prepared to go quietly
Inside centre partners Brian O’Driscoll for a world record 52nd time against the All Blacks
Gordon D’Arcy: “Performing well just isn’t good enough for us. If it was, I wouldn’t be here.”
It’s not just sport, you either have it or you don’t. Gordon D’Arcy has it. Always has, always will.
“I think it was always there, I just never would have been as vocal about it. I would have been more smiley and happy go lucky to the outside world but when it came to games I would have always been very physical and aggressive.
“You can’t help but be competitive. I’m the same when I’m playing cards with my family . . . You can’t help it. It just comes out in you and I think that’s what drives us. It comes from somewhere, that competitiveness, and you just can’t help it.”
As he ages, he has decided to show it. “I’m a lot more vocal about it now because you have to be because I’m one of the senior players.
“You have to set the standards because other people look to you and see how you approach games and training.
“You’ve got to show the next generation and the people around you that this is how we do it. You fight for everything.”
Especially your place in the team, now under serious threat from Luke Marshall.
Remembering D’Arcy’s international career means going all the way back to the 20th century.
In 1999 he walked into the Ireland camp on the eve of the World Cup, a pudgy yet magnificently gifted fullback, fresh out of Clongowes Wood College, wondering what he was doing in such company.
Conor O’Shea took him for lunch. Afterwards they did some kicking practice together.
He has never forgotten that.
In 2004, with Brian O’Driscoll injured, Gary Ella transformed the stalled winger into an outside centre. By Six Nations’ end he was player of the tournament but not before Kevin Maggs showed him the ropes. Again, an untarnished memory.
And so, finally, he returned the favour last week when usurped by Marshall for the Australia game.
“Listen, there is a huge amount more to being a professional rugby player than showing up at training.
“You always hear players talk about it being the guys who don’t make the weekend that can dictate a lot of things. When you are not that guy more often than not it is very easy for you to say that. But to put it into action can be a bit of a test.
“To be honest, it actually wasn’t.
“There is not going to be that big a debate that Luke Marshall is a very, very good player and deserved his run-out.”
When Maggs’ time was up, D’Arcy settled into a life as O’Driscoll’s midfield partner. On Sunday they play together in a green jersey for a world record 52nd time.
Yesterday D’Arcy sat among us and laughed off suggestions that the end is near. It probably is but he will not go quietly.
He may well join Marshall in the centre against Argentina this summer but for now they are rivals as only one of them fits into the match-day squad.
“It’s hard. I felt I did well in the Samoa game. I had an early blunder off the kick-off but apart from that I thought I did well. I was in the right places for the patterns, the defensive organisation was quite good. That’s probably something I bring, a little bit more experience than Luke but again these are things he is going to learn very quickly.
“I have to make hay while the sun shines. If I have a little advantage over him I have to capitalise.”
Facing the Predator of inside centres, Ma’a Nonu, should be a daunting task but it isn’t.
“I know I can defend him . . . shy away from that physical confrontation and he will absolutely bully you.”
The Marshall threat has him enjoying his rugby again. Like in the 19990s when he glided over the same field he takes tomorrow as an unmarkable schoolboy.
“If I get picked for any game from here on in I’ll know that I’ve earned them. There are no second chances from here on in.
“There’s a guy who is incredibly talented there who isn’t even right behind me, he’s right on my shoulder so keeping my edge is my focus now rather than worrying about the mortality.”
You wonder how it’s humanly possible to hurt the All Blacks and D’Arcy, politely, chides the unwashed.
“I don’t mean this to come across badly, I think that’s what separates you guys on that side and us guys on this side. Performing well just isn’t good enough for us. If it was, I wouldn’t be here.
“I say that as humbly as possible but that’s what drives us. To be the best and to win.”
Nothing else matters.