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Gordon D'Arcy adapting to heights of new technology

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

The fully restored beard is cosmetic confirmation of the wisdom that emanates from Gordon D'Arcy as he endures his 17th pre-season as a professional rugby player.

Like any player well into his 30s, the R-word is circling and the one-year deal that brings him up to next year's World Cup has a symmetrical feel to it.

D'Arcy is not putting an expiry date on his career just yet, however, and his desire to perform seems as strong as ever.

As he modelled Canterbury's latest Leinster jersey yesterday, he reflected on the first blue shirts he donned that took on water and a couple of kilogrammes over the course of a game.

The gear has changed, but perhaps preparation is the fastest moving part of the professional game since the Ireland centre arrived on the scene.

Every year, there seems to be a new tool to help the players become bigger, faster and stronger and this pre-season is no different as the strength and conditioning staff introduced unprecedented levels of horror on their charges.

"I can still train as hard as all the other lads. It just has to be in a different way," he explained.

"I'm sure you've all heard about our good friend, the altitude tent. That takes a lot of the trauma off your joints. I'm spending a lot of time in there. It is one of the most horrific experiences of my life.

"It reduces the amount of oxygen in the air. It is like training at 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 feet. You do your fitness on that. It is the equivalent of doing a higher volume of work in a more condensed period of time."

It doesn't sound pleasant.

"It is tailored specifically. You are running with half the volume of air in the tent. You can literally pass out if you do too much. It is shorter, sharper, more intense," he continued.

"The lactic burn you get in there is pretty horrific. I've never had it before in my life.

"It is awkward. It is a tent. There is no hiding. You run and your legs stop working and you've a burn in your chest that just won't go away."

Sean O'Brien expects to be fit and ready to start the new season from day one after missing the summer tour to Argentina.

A shoulder injury suffered in January ruined the Tullow native's campaign last year and, although he returned in time for the conclusion of Leinster's Pro12 campaign, he was rested for the series win over the Pumas.

"I'll hopefully be ready to go from the off this year. I want to play as many games as I possibly can or as I'm allowed over the start of the season," O'Brien revealed yesterday.

"I'd fully expect myself to be available for the start of the season.

"I'm moving very freely at the minute. I've nothing annoying me or anything like that and that's for the first time in a good while as well I've had that."

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