Ireland centre Gordon D’Arcy has been given a handful of games to prove he is worth being given a World Cup swansong after announcing he will retire at the end of this autumn’s tournament in England.
The 35-year-old Leinster legend, capped 81 times at Test level, made clear his intention to bow out at the top yesterday having been handed the opportunity to extend his 17-season career to the end of October.
Yet having failed to feature in an Ireland matchday squad since November, D’Arcy may well face an uphill battle to convince former provincial boss Joe Schmidt he is worth a place in the national team squad bound for England and Wales, which will be named on September 6.
The former British & Irish Lions tourist posted an open letter on the Leinster Rugby website yesterday morning announcing his retirement from professional rugby at the end of World Cup 2015.
D’Arcy had been omitted from Schmidt’s final RBS 6 Nations squad in March when a 36-man panel was named for the last two matches of the championship against Wales and Scotland.
Ireland went on to successfully defend their title with Robbie Henshaw at number 12 throughout the campaign in the jersey that had previously been graced by the Wexford inside centre since his 1999 Test debut.
With Leinster already out of the running for a Guinness Pro12 semi-final and ousted from the Champions Cup at the semi-final stage in Marseille, D’Arcy now has two league games remaining in the season to earn a place in Schmidt’s squad for the non-Test match against the Barbarians in Limerick on May 28 and then prove he is worth another look during four warm-up Tests in August and early September.
Today’s Champions Cup final at Twickenham between Toulon and Clermont Auvergne appears to have led to the three-time Heineken Cup winner’s decision to announce his decision to retire.
D’Arcy’s letter opened: “Had the result in Marseille nearly two weeks ago gone our way, this week could have been a lot different but unfortunately it isn’t so I am taking this opportunity to announce that I will be retiring from professional rugby at the end of October. It is a decision that I have not come to lightly but one that sits very easily with me and with my wife, Aoife.
“My decision has always been that I would leave at this time – after the Rugby World Cup 2015 – and I would like to thank Leinster Rugby and the IRFU for their support in facilitating this process which began last summer.
"I am so proud, fortunate and honoured to have represented my province and country for 17 seasons but I am leaving on my terms which is how everyone would wish to end their professional rugby careers.”
D’Arcy, whose long-standing midfield partner Brian O’Driscoll retired last May, gave credit to his formative rugby years with Wexford Wanderers, Clongowes Wood College and Lansdowne for giving him “the solid foundations” in rugby but he made it clear Leinster was the place that meant the most to him, having represented his province since 1998.
He made his 260th appearance in last weekend’s Pro12 defeat to Ulster and next Friday night’s league game against Treviso could be his final home game at the RDS if he were to make the World Cup squad.
“It is still hard for me to get my head around the fact that I will not be pulling a jersey on again after October,” D’Arcy wrote.
“It has always been an honour to represent my country. I hope to continue that over the coming months and help to achieve something with this very special group of players and staff at the Rugby World Cup.
“Leinster will always hold a special place in my heart, my first and only club.
“In an ideal world I would have loved to have been bowing out after a Champions Cup Final and who knows maybe even a PRO12 Final, but unfortunately as players we have not achieved the targets that we set ourselves at the start of the season, in particular in the league. That’s life. And that’s sport at the very highest level.”
D’Arcy also appealed to Leinster’s supporters to get behind under-fire head coach Matt O’Connor and his backroom staff, including first-year forwards coach Leo Cullen..
“I have no doubt that Leinster is in the best possible hands with Matt and Leo at the helm and our recent performance in the Champions Cup semi-final reminded me just what this club and this team is capable of.
“Let’s not forget that it is only 12 months since Matt delivered a PRO12 title at his first attempt and that we have progressed to the quarters and now the semis in Europe.
“They have achieved this during a time of great transition and now, more than ever, they need your support.”
D’Arcy signed off by saying: “I will genuinely miss being a Leinster and Irish Rugby player. I have loved every moment of it.”
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