Why Gordon D'Arcy won't give up the ghost
'It's like being a young lad again'
USUALLY, the newest of the new Leinster prodigies travel to The Dragons for their first real, competitive experience of professional rugby.
Rodney Parade is one of those venues built almost exclusively to remind you how you are at the bottom of the ladder, not the top.
It's old school.
It could be where 35 year-old Gordon D'Arcy goes to see out his career in the PRO12 on Sunday. That is the reality for a man fast running out of time and chances.
The future is written in the stars, they say, and for the decorated, even heroic, Irish centre the only future is right here, right now.
He has been ousted by Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne at Ireland; Ian Madigan and Ben Te'o at Leinster.
"There are not that many games left, a maximum of eight," he said. "You just put yourself in the shop window this week.
"It is like being a young lad again. You've got to play your best game and then leave it up to the coaches after that.
"I've got to put myself in there. I've just got to be as good as I can be and I'll be fresh if I do get a run."
The veteran of 253 Leinster caps since his debut against Llanelli way back before the turn of the century in September 1998 is, in some ways, where he started, working for an opening.
Interestingly, the vast majority of times D'Arcy has pulled on the Leinster shirt (231) have been as a starter.
He has occupied the bench just 22 times, none last season, six this.
It's got to hurt. And badly.
D'Arcy has played the role of The Company Man to a tee with all the good grace and loyalty you would expect from the Wexford man.
"Listen, you do your job as best you can," he considered.
"You try to make the players around you look good, play well for the other players around you, put the ball in the right hands in the right places.
"You have to realise that the guys who are grading you and picking the team see all the bits and pieces you do that someone on TV might not look at - see you are in the right places, doing your job role, working hard for the team.
"If you do all those things, you put yourself into it and then you've just got to put it down to selection.
"Once you can step off the pitch, look yourself in the mirror, in the eye, 'I did everything I could'.
"You get picked - great. You don't get picked. What can you do?"
There is the burning ambition to play in the 2015 World Cup which was always going to be compromised should he lose out at No 12 for Ireland. For all of his movement between full-back, wing and outside centre where he was voted Player of the 2004 Six Nations, D'Arcy matured into a specialist inside centre over the years.
He knows he has to get back in at Leinster before he can even contemplate bigger dreams later in the year.
"You've just got to be playing," he said simply.
"When you get on the pitch, even if it's off the bench, if that's my role, that's my role.
"I will do whatever is best for Leinster to try and win silverware.
"If that has to be what it is for now and it leads into something great in the autumn, that's fantastic.
"All I can worry about is the next game. It is on Sunday. That's all I can control.," added D'Arcy.
"If I play my best game there, and that gets me into the team, great.
"If I play my best game and it doesn't get me into the team, I've done all I can.
"At least, I'm making him (Matt O'Connor) have a think about it. That's all you can ever expect.
"If he's honest with you and you're happy with the chain of communication with the coach - I have a great relationship with all the coaching staff - it's good."
First, there are The Dragons where Leinster are in deep-seated need of five points, four at a minimum to climb into the Top-4.
They have been forewarned by losing out on their 21-match home winning streak to the Welshmen during the Six Nations window.
Beynod that, D'Arcy reluctantly looked back at last year's quarter-final in Toulon to provide an insight into what has to be done on Sunday week in Marseille.
"We had opportunities to score tries. We didn't take them. You can't do that," he reviewed.
"The further you go along in a competition, no matter what that is, The PRO12, The Champions Cup, you're strike rate for opportunities, for strike rates, you might get six chances in the qualifying rounds, you might four in the quarter.
"We had three chances and we didn't convert one of them.
"We scored a try. But, the game was dead. It was too little, too late. They had steam-rolled us at that stage.
"You need to be with them at 60 minutes. That's when they can begin to look around and panic a little bit. You have to be still with them at that point.
"We were with them at 40 minutes and then we coughed up."
At present, D'Arcy is out of the Leinster15 and the Ireland 23.
It could be time to walk away from the game he has given so much to and received so much in return.
And still: "I am still there or thereabouts.
"I've been that guy who's been left out plenty of times in my career. It is not that hard.
"Someone can roll an ankle tomorrow or next Tuesday and could be catapulted straight back in.
"I am pretty good at compartmentalising and being ready for a game.
"It's a team sport. There's no one bigger than the team. There are other guys dealing with similar stuff and they suit-up and they boot-up every Monday and do what's best for the team.
"I am no different than anyone else."
Toulon and Twickenham are still there for him.