Gordon D’Arcy will make his 100th Leinster appearance when he lines up in Saturday’s Heineken Cup Quarter Final against Toulouse in Le Stadium Municipal…
D’Arcy – who becomes the seventh Leinster player to achieve the landmark behind past greats Shane Byrne and Victor Costello as well as current colleagues Reggie Corrigan, Brian O’Meara, Girvan Dempsey and Denis Hickie – will line up at centre alongside Brian O’Driscoll in a strong back line which includes the tournament’s top points scorer Felipe Contepomi (104 points).
In the pack Reggie Corrigan partners Ireland ‘A’ hooker Brian Blaney and Will Green while Keith Gleeson will form a lively and aggressive backrow alongside Cameron Jowitt and Jamie Heaslip.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s Heineken Cup Quarter final clash, D’Arcy reflected on becoming the youngest player to reach the milestone:
“My first match was against Edinburgh in 1998 and I came on as a replacement for Denis (Hickie) and managed to score a try. You have to remember that at that time I was just out of school around eight or nine weeks. So there was no talk of contracts or anything like that.
“I was invited by Mike Ruddock to come in and train and at no stage did I ever think that I’d make it to 100 caps for Leinster.
“At the start of my career I just wanted to play and, thankfully, my feelings haven’t changed all that much as I reflect on my career. My parents have been hugely supportive from the start. They encouraged me to get out and enjoy kicking a ball around with Wexford Wanderers and I’m so grateful for their encouragement and that of my brother and the rest of my family and friends. I’d also acknowledge the likes of Mike (Ruddock), Gary Ella, Ken Ging and the late Vinnie Murray who put me on track in both my school and rugby career.
“I’d be the first to admit that I struggled in the early days of professionalism. I didn’t enjoy the pressure and the intensity but I’ve grown more comfortable with the demands of professional rugby and I really enjoy all the games now. The bigger (the game) the better in fact and it doesn’t get much bigger, at club level, than Toulouse away.
“Games like these are the reason why you play rugby. You want to measure yourself against as high a calibre of opposition as you possibly can. Those of us who were involved in Twickenham had a few days off but even in that time we remained focused on Toulouse.
“We know that anything can happen in sport. Look at what Arsenal have achieved recently when you consider how they were written off against the so-called ‘Galacticos’ of Real Madrid. They believed in themselves and beat them and again proved their doubters wrong against Juventus earlier this week. That’s something we can take heart from.
“The support from the stands will be another factor. To be honest I think that the 5,000 travelling support is a conservative estimate because a lot of people are going to book their tickets late. That level of support is something that they (Toulouse) won’t be used to in their own ground and it will definitely give us an extra lift. The support that we’ve received recently on our travels has been incredible.
“I’ve only played against Trevor (Brennan) once before and that was for Lansdowne against St. Mary’s. I ran down the short side and, believe me, I wouldn’t have taken that option had I known that he was there and he just cut me in two! We’ll need to be wary of his threat. This is an international game for him. He’s an Irishman playing in France but he’s also the heart of the Toulouse side.
“A lot of players like Trevor have come and gone over the years and it has been a pleasure to play with them. I’m really enjoying my rugby with Leinster and hopefully there are many more great days to come.”