Gordon D’Arcy insists he has no bitterness towards Joe Schmidt for ending his international career and has backed the Ireland head coach to make the difference in the country’s bid for a first Rugby World Cup.
D’Arcy, who had announced he would retire from rugby after the tournament, was cut by Schmidt from his training squad in August to bring an end to his Ireland career after 82 caps.
But D’Arcy says his former Leinster boss was fully justified in making the decision and is adamant the New Zealander has a plan to win the World Cup which he believes could work.
“It really isn’t strange not being involved,” said D’Arcy. “I had a good conversation with Joe at the end of last season and he said ‘we want you to stay around, we want you to compete’.
“So I trained all summer, did my best, and got my audition in the Scottish game. That was the game, and if it had been the Welsh game or a different game it might have been different for me, but it wasn’t.
“But I’m 35, I’ve been to three World Cups. This one was always going to be a push, but I have my family, my wife and a little baby and there is light at the end of the tunnel as I get to do daddy daycare at home and get to watch the World Cup as a fan. Joe is the guy that players want to play for and that’s what you want. You want players to be playing for the coach. If he can get that extra two or three per cent out of them that could be the difference.”
And D’Arcy believes pundits should not get carried away with Ireland’s poor form in the warm-ups, pointing out they only have to peak for the final Pool game with France.
Win that and Ireland will almost certainly avoid the All Blacks in the quarter-finals and D’Arcy says the team is set to reach top gear then – while he has also backed centre pairing Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne.
“All that matters is winning the first three games, beating France and then we will see,” added the 35-year-old.
“The amount of times you play three games and then in the fourth one you click and you go on a run – form can turn like that.
“As for the centres I think it’s our best combination. There is a great mix. Brian O’Driscoll and I complemented each other in different ways. And they do the same in their own way.
“They are big guys as well, both over 6’2” which gives Ireland something they haven’t had for over a decade! “They’ve had, what, six games together? Give them more time. Look at the Scottish game in the Six Nations, they played pretty well together in that game.
“The more they play the more they get used to each other.
“I have been really, really impressed with Jared. He has an incredibly smart brain and like most guys from the southern hemisphere he plays heads-up rugby, sees things and wants them to happen. Robbie is one of the best I think we’ve seen in a long time.”
D’Arcy also thinks that the team will be desperate for success to give Paul O’Connell the perfect send-off as he leaves Ireland for Toulon after the tournament.
“He is an incredibly inspirational leader by talking and is even more so by his ability on the pitch.
“He lives up to his own words and that is the kind of guy you want to follow. It would be great for Paul if this team did something special for him, it would be a great way to send him off.”
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