Muliaina amazing coup, says D’Arcy

Gordon D’Arcy has hailed Connacht’s capture of 33-year-old All Black legend Mils Muliaina.

D’Arcy compared Muliaina, whom he faced three times at Test level with Ireland, to Isa Nacewa, Brad Thorn and Rocky Elsom in terms of the influence he will potentially exert out west.

“It’s an unbelievable signing for Connacht,” he’s as close a player as you’ll get to Isa,” lavished D’Arcy. “He makes incredibly good decisions under pressure. That’s what a really, really good player is, someone who makes good decisions and makes the players around him look good.

“When we were doing the analysis, he was the guy who did the right things. The wingers looked fantastic, they were getting all the tries, but he’s a fantastic player and he’ll definitely bring that experience and guys can learn a lot from him.”

Leinster have made the fewest waves of all the four provinces in terms of new arrivals thus far, although the signature of Waratahs and Wallaby lock Kane Douglas is due to be announced this week.

Second-row was an obvious gap that needed filling given Leo Cullen’s impending retirement, but the departure of Brian O’Driscoll will also leave an even larger void for Matt O’Connor and his assistants.

“It is going to be very hard to replace Brian for what he brings to the team,” said D’Arcy, “not just individually. Collectively, he has always been a galvanising figure.

“There seems to be talk of a second-row coming and how that’s going to affect who we can sign for next year … it may have to come from within our ranks. We may have to use players a bit more across the board. Lukey (Fitzgerald) can play a bit at 13. I can. We’ve got Brendan Macken here and Noel Reid.”

Leinster may well be helped, in the short term at least, by the fact that Fergus McFadden is on course to report hale and hearty after a five-week absence for Saturday’s last regular season game, at home to Edinburgh.

Yet, there is a clear sense the province could do with a marquee signing in the backs, comparable to that arranged by Connacht.

To be fair, the stats don’t say as much — tries and points scored this season compare more or less favourably to last while the defence has clearly improved – but D’Arcy admits more is required as the PRO12 end game nears.

“There is definitely a transition in how we’re approaching the game,” said the veteran centre. “That is only natural with a new coach coming in. As players, we need to take a little bit more responsibility for how we carry ourselves on the pitch.

“Unfortunately, there’s a few negatives in that we’re not executing at our high standards. That has got to come back with us. It is something we are very conscious of. We are trying some different things, trying to be more creative. That is a challenge to the players.”

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