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RBS 6 Nations: Another chance for Gordon D'Arcy

veteran centre goes on defensive over his recall at the expense of ulster's luke

By Niall Crozier

Lesinter veteran Gordon D'Arcy was dodging Luke Marshall-shaped bullets when he faced the media at Ireland's Carton House retreat.

With next Monday being his 34th birthday, he is only too aware not only of the march of Father Time but of the threat 22-year-old Marshall poses to his future at international level.

Last week it was the Ulster player who faced Scotland; tomorrow it is D'Arcy who will occupy the channel between Jonny Sexton and Brian O'Driscoll.

Asked if it was satisfying to have got his jersey back for what promises to be the more testing of Ireland's first two matches in the 2014 RBS 6 Nations, D'Arcy said: "Yeah.

"It's nothing I've done or it's nothing Luke hasn't done; it's Joe (Schmidt, the Ireland coach). I haven't really talked to him in any sort of depth – he just told me I was playing and then you kind of get on with it. Nothing has really changed from that with myself and Luke."

D'Arcy is complimentary towards Marshall, insisting: "Neither one of us is in front or behind; we're both neck and neck and each player has to play well when given the chance.

"He played well last week and I have to play well this week and I have to stake my claim and show I have to be there week in and week out."

As for his inclusion on this occasion he explained the coach's decision by saying: "He (Schmidt) did say there was going to be changes and I'm just happy one of them was mine. With that comes a huge amount of pressure and a huge amount of expectation to perform."

Physically there is little to choose between D'Arcy and Marshall; both are 5ft 11ins (1.8m). Marshall is the heavier of the pair, however – 15st 1lb (96kg) to his rival's 14st 4lbs (91kg). And against opponents as big as the Welsh backs, one wonders if that might count?

D'Arcy admitted that the Welsh backline certainly poses a threat.

"They have big guys, physical, direct. The Welsh game plan has been very specific for a couple of years. They rely on the fact that they feel they can dominate those channels.

"That just puts a little challenge up to me to make sure that I defend those channels as well as I can."

He had a clever line when he added: "Everybody is the same height around the ankles."

Explaining his approach when pitted against taller, heavier opponents he said: "I'm 90 kilos; I'm not going to try and stop anybody dead. I play my game and I defend my game. I'm a chop-focused tackler – I always have been and it's been an effective tool for me.

"Once you get somebody around the ankles there is little or nothing they can do. You've got to back up that tackle. If they break out of it, then they are on their way – but I'm pretty confident in my defence."

With Schmidt having insisted that at this stage he does not have a favourite for the inside-centre role for the England game on February 22 at Twickenham, D'Arcy too was coy when questioned on that matter.

"I don't care about Twickenham, I only care about what happens in 48 hours time," he said. "My immediate concern is half-two on Saturday afternoon."

He was no less tetchy when asked about the threat Marshall poses to his position.

"It's not my position and it's never been my position," he shot back, figuratively tackling the questioner round the ankles.

"I'm just lucky to have worn the jersey 75 times. You get the privilege of wearing that jersey. You're just keeping it warm for the next person or whoever is selected. I've never looked at it in that kind of way, I've always been privileged to wear the jersey.

"Now there's a lot of competition in the team right across. I think it's healthy. Luke has improved as a result of it. He's got a taste for international rugby, he's very hungry and he's a guy that wants to learn. It's good for us and it gives Joe a selection headache every week and that's what he wants."

The fact that 13 of those who will start against Wales faced the All Blacks in November appears to confirm that those are Schmidt's front-line troopers.

Mention of the Irish display that memorable Sunday afternoon in tandem with a suggestion that similar displays would enable Ireland to see off all-comers in the Six Nations at least puts D'Arcy on the front foot once again.

"We can't use the New Zealand game as a barometer because we didn't get there. We have to go to the well and those dangerous places," D'Arcy said before adding, "We have to do that consistently – and this is one of those games where we're going to be tested for 80 minutes."

There's no argument there.

Belfast Telegraph


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