Leinster centre Gordon D'Arcy insists he's ever-ready for Munster clashes
The beard may be gone - for the moment - but, the man, he continues on the same path.
Gordon D'Arcy looks fresh-shaven when he strolls in for Leinster's Monday debriefing with Munster dead ahead in his sights under the Saturday night lights at the Aviva Stadium.
The veteran Wexford centre, 34, was still a full-back - that's how long ago it was - when he bought a dummy sold by former Ireland captain Keith Wood in a Leinster-Munster derby.
It was November 5th, 1999. D'Arcy was 19-years-old. Leinster were resoundingly beaten 30-13 in Donnybrook. It was to become a familiar theme for him, losing out to Munster. He was replaced in the 54th minute.
"Before I ever knew the intensity of these games, Keith Wood turned me inside out in my first game, a hooker turning a full-back inside out," he recalled.
"That was because I wasn't ready for the intensity of this level. We'd played a few games and then suddenly there's Munster and there's a huge spike. That was a huge learning curve for me.
"And I told myself that I would never let that happen to me again. I told myself that I would never go into a match against Munster and not be absolutely ready for it."
Since then, Leinster have learned how to win and how to keep on winning. Getting to the top is one thing; staying there something else entirely. Munster have always been the measuring stick.
"There have been a few swings in the derbies when we've had good runs and then they have.
"But, every year, it's the same thing. The same questions are being asked. Has the derby moved on? Does it mean as much given the context of the other games? Yes, it does. After the game, we can talk about context.
"But, this week, there might as well be no other competitions being played. It's all about the red playing the blue.
"We have it at home in the Aviva and we have an obligation to the fans, who have been supportive of us, to live up to their expectations as well as our own."
Leinster and Munster are mirror images of each other in terms of winning two and losing two from the first four rounds of the Guinness PRO12 League.
Each province will want to find their true form ahead of the first two rounds of the Rugby Champions Cup in mid-October.
"If anything, that will add something a bit extra to the games," he said. "You might see the teams be a little bit more accurate and not willing to let the other team get two scores ahead.
"It will be cat-and-mouse. Whoever is accurate and physical will be able to lay down an early marker."
D'Arcy would not be drawn into whether he will be the man to replace the irreplaceable even though he must have flashbacks to his superb 2004 Six Nations as an outside centre.
"I've turned myself into, I hope, a reasonably good 12. But even back then, it was always about what was best for the team. And wherever that is, whatever cog I fit into, I'll do that.
"I've a great relationship with the two coaches," he added, in reference to Leinster's Matt O'Connor and Ireland's Joe Schmidt.
"They talk to me quite regularly, tell me what to do and how to do it and I try my best to do it. Whether twelve or thirteen, I'm happy to do it."