As Gordon D’Arcy looks set to leave centre stage he has one message for the next generation of rugby players, “There is no substitute for hard work”.
This weekend saw what could be the final home appearance for my former Leinster team mate Gordon D’Arcy.
With nearly 350 professional games in blue and green the Wexford man has served both club and country well in a career spanning 17 seasons.
‘Darce’ is among the first fully professional generation of players and his experience is invaluable to younger players looking to take the game forward.
Robbie Henshaw of Connacht looks most likely to inherit the No 12 shirt for Ireland, and he spoke to the Independent.ie of D’Arcy’s help ahead of his first International games. “His experience alone is unbelievable; he has given so much to the Irish jersey it’s incredible. I’ll be looking for a few hints off him.”
Rugby is a game where the best players are driven to improve themselves and their team mates and it’s the insight of players of the calibre of D’Arcy that I set out to capture and share with my book Rugby Revealed.
Gordon was among over 100 players and coaches interviewed for the project and he was keen to share his views on coaching and his advice for young players.
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) May 8, 2015
The Role of Coach
For the veteran centre who has played and won with Joe Schmidt and Michael Cheika the coach at Elite level sets the ethos and philosophy of the team through the decisions they make. However D’Arcy believes that the focus should be different for younger players.
“In under age games it’s about development and making players better at their level so being focused on winning at any costs shouldn’t be the main priority. At developmental stage and even up to 20-21 you should be being pushed to be better players, better decision makers, and better athletes with ball in hand.”
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) May 9, 2015
Importance of Core Skills
Skill development was something the Leinster No 12 makes reference to several times in our interview and he was not alone in highlighting core skills as a major factor between good and great players. His own development was an area he wishes he had focused on more at a young age.
“I was capped very early for Ireland and Leinster and came to expect things would just be handed to me. I wish I’d come to that conclusion much earlier for myself and been much more skill orientated when I was younger,” explained D’Arcy. Ultimately it is the player’s responsibility to work on their skills “There is no substitute for hard work.”
— The42.ie Rugby (@rugby_ie) May 10, 2015
Advice for Young Players
D’Arcy believes that confidence on the ball gives you options and starting early is essential if a young player wants to get close to the skills levels the very top players have.
“I look at guys like Quade Cooper, Dan Carter and Ma’a Nonu the list goes on…these lads didn’t just pick up a ball and go ‘I like the look of rugby, at age 22, I’m going to be an International rugby player.’ Since the age of 8,9,10 they have been comfortable with ball in hand and it makes me wish I was much more comfortable with ball in hand.”
For a player with Six Nations titles, Heineken Cup winners’ medals, and Pro 12 titles as well as two British and Irish Lions Tours on his CV it’s hard to see where he could have done better. Ireland has however under performed at the very highest level, failing to get passed the quarter final stages of any Rugby World Cup tournament to date. From his perspective what’s required for teams to progress at this level isn’t a physical change, it’s a technical one.
“No matter how much bigger rugby players get it’s always going to be by the same ratios. The All Blacks are probably still 10% bigger than Ireland are, which is the same as 20 years ago. The All Blacks are so much more comfortable on the ball than everyone else. When you see No 8s putting 20 yard pass into the corner for a winger or when you see a No 2 getting away the deftest little touches, that’s what creates tries not just big fat lads who can run that score tries. There is no substitute for being skilful with ball in hand.”
His Next Opponent
Gordon D’Arcy still hopes for a final run out for Ireland in the Rugby World Cup to officially end his career before facing the his next challenge, life after rugby. Let’s hope he gets to put his experience and skills to the test against the best in the world one last time in the green of Ireland.
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) May 8, 2015
Gordon D’Arcy Player Profile
With one Amlin, four Celtic Leagues, one Grand Slam, two Six Nations Championships, Gordon D’Arcy has accomplished much as a player for Leinster and Ireland. At inside centre he was dynamic in attack and formidable in defence, and made the No 12 shirt his own. His partnership at Centre for club and country with Brian O’Driscoll put them in the record books as the most capped pairing for Ireland and behind only Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu on the global stage.
Gavin Hickie, USA Rugby Collegiate All-Americans Head Coach, is a former Ireland A & 7s, Leinster and Leicester rugby player now Head Coach of Dartmouth Rugby. He writes for RugbyToday.com and other publications when not coaching and blogging on lineoutcoach.com