independent

Sunday 17 February 2019

D'Arcy to bow out

Rugby hero will retire after World Cup in October

Gordon D'Arcy in PRO12 action against the Newport Gwent Dragons
Gordon D'Arcy in PRO12 action against the Newport Gwent Dragons

Brendan Furlong

Gordon D'Arcy will retire from professional rugby at the end of October's World Cup.

He confirmed his decision on Friday morning, having signed a four-month I.R.F.U. contract that runs until the end of the World Cup.

'My decision has always been that I would leave at this time - after the Rugby World Cup 2015 - and I would like to thank Leinster Rugby and the I.R.F.U. for their support in facilitating this process which began last summer.

'It is still hard for me to get my head around the fact that I will not be pulling a jersey on again after October.

'It has always been an honour to represent my country. I hope to continue that over the coming months and help to achieve something with this very special group of players and staff at the Rugby World Cup.

'In an ideal world I would have loved to have been bowing out after a Champions Cup final and who knows maybe after a PRO12 final, but unfortunately as players we have not achieved the targets that we set ourselves at the start of the season, in particular in the league.'

D'Arcy added that he believes Leinster can improve next season and, reflecting on his career, he said 'I have loved every moment of it'.

The Leinster star and former Wexford Wanderer has won 81 Ireland caps, scoring seven tries, while he also toured with the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand in 2005 and South Africa four years later.

D'Arcy helped Ireland to win a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2009 and the Six Nations title last season.

During the majority of his international career he forged an outstanding midfield partnership with Brian O'Driscoll, a player whom D'Arcy will now follow into retirement once the World Cup is done and dusted.

D'Arcy has made 260 Leinster appearances since being handed a debut in September, 1998, with his provincial career being highlighted by Heineken Cup final triumphs in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

A schoolboy sensation, shredding defences from full-back as Clongowes Wood College captured the 1998 Leinster Schools Cup, such was his talent that then Ireland coach Warren Gatland sought to bring him on tour to South Africa.

The Leaving Certificate held sway but D'Arcy was capped as a teenager, off the bench for Conor O'Shea, in the 44-14 victory over Romania during the 1999 World Cup at Lansdowne Road, with one searing break from that day immediately springing to mind.

Some teething problems followed, and he was overlooked for the 2003 World Cup with his Six Nations debut not coming until 2004 when he replaced an injured Brian O'Driscoll in Paris.

It was then that D'Arcy, aged 24 at the time, began to truly deliver on his rare talent. He was named Six Nations player of the tournament as Ireland captured their first Triple Crown since 1985.

A quality winger, remoulded at centre, 13 was swapped for 12 when O'Driscoll returned. A disappointing Lions tour followed in 2005, and he also toured as a replacement to South Africa in 2009, but the player's consistent excellence and reliability since 2004 guarantees him a place among the greats of Irish and European rugby.

Twice his peers recognised him as player of the season, in 2004 and 2007, and for a time himself and O'Driscoll (who described him as the best defender he ever played alongside) held the world record for a centre partnership, Fifty times they wore the green together, almost always against bigger opponents but so rarely have smarter rugby brains worked in tandem.

In his Leinster career of 260 caps, D'Arcy has scored 339 points (61 tries, two conversions, six penalties, four drop goals), with his achievements also including three Heineken Cups (2009, 2011, 2012), and Challenge Cup (2013) along with four Celtic League/PRO12 titles.

In his Ireland career he contributed 35 points made up of seven tries, with Triple Crowns in 2004, 2006 and 2007, plus Six Nations titles 2009 (Grand Slam) and 2014. He made his British and Irish Lions debut versus Argentina in May, 2005, coupled with two tours (New Zealand 2005 and South Africa 2009) with ten appearances.

D'Arcy, who started his career under the guidance of local solicitor, James O'Connor, in the schoolboys section of Wexford Wanderers, bows out of the international scene after 17 marvellous seasons at the top of international rugby.

A great servant to both club and country it was a pleasure to have been present and see him play in what was then the Heineken Cup final victory over Leicester in Edinburgh in 2011. He is a legend in blue and green and a gent off the pitch whom I have interviewed on several occasions.

Wexford People