19 May, 11:13
There are six uncapped players in the Ireland squad for the summer tour to North America that was named this morning. An Emerging Ireland squad has also been selected for the Tblisi Cup in Georgia.
Gordon D'Arcy is just counting his lucky stars he is involved in such a buoyant and productive period in Irish rugby. Having won his 25 Test caps over the course of seven years, the Leinster centre is still familiarising himself with the phrase 'regular starter.'
For that is exactly what the Wexford man has become in the past year. 13 appearances for Ireland in the space of 12 months have meant that his is one of the first names pencilled down in the minds of Eddie O'Sullivan and Niall O'Donovan on the eve of their team announcement days.
Finally on a relatively injury-free run, although he did have a minor shoulder operation in August which caused him to miss September's training camp, D'Arcy is revelling again in his centre partnership with his provincial team-mate and Irish skipper Brian O'Driscoll.
Rekindling the form which saw him walk away with the 2004 RBS 6 Nations Player of the Tournament award, the 26-year-old has played arguably the best rugby of his international career between the summer tour and this month's three-match Guinness Autumn Series.
Whilst admitting that the Irish squad have not given the World Cup a thought yet - "we'll worry about that next year" - what is on his mind is the pushing for places that has gone on over the past few weeks. The competition for first choice recognition is fierce and the feeling around the squad, from the media and supporters alike, seems a world away from November last year.
D'Arcy said: "Just going back to last year's autumn internationals, we were being written off because we got beaten by New Zealand and Australia, and didn't put in a big performance against Romania. But we had a lot of players who were just starting out in their Test careers and they've turned into the shining stars of this year's games.
"(Denis) Leamy, (Neil) Best and Trimby (Andrew Trimble) to name just three - these guys were setting the world alight a week ago.
"So we're starting to get a depth to our squad. Eddie has his plan and we're all just lucky enough to be involved in it."
D'Arcy has never had a proper run-out against a national team from the Pacific Islands - three of his first four caps came as a replacement against Fiji (2002), Tonga and Samoa (both 2003) - so Pat Lam's tourists pose an exciting proposition for Sunday's farewell international at the old Lansdowne Road.
Clued up enough with the spread of Islanders dotted around European clubs, he warned: "These guys are big hitters. They do exactly what they say on the tin! They're obviously going to try to hurt you in the tackle. You just have to respect that - that's something that you just have to be mentally prepared for.
"Some people will make the argument that some of their tackles are illegal, or that they don't use their arms (in the tackle), but that's how these boys have grown up playing rugby so you just have to get on with it."
Harking back to the summer tour of 2003, which saw Ireland play both Tonga and Samoa in searing heat and on granite-like grounds, D'Arcy remembered: "It was weird playing rugby out there. There was literally nothing out there. The pitches barely had grass on them.
"The big thing when you're playing against these guys is not to get involved in a loose game with them. They've got some guys playing for top teams. They're world-renowned for their big hits at this stage but they've all got good touches and they like to move the ball around. They've got some guys who can do some real damage and we'll have to be on our toes."
Having just gone up against two 6ft 3in, 16 stone midfielders in Australia's Stirling Mortlock and Lote Tuqiri, D'Arcy is well used to facing big opponents but he is philosophical when asked about the possibility of sustaining an injury against the hard-tackling Islanders.
"Injuries can be good in a way because they give you time to reflect on how lucky you are when you do eventually get back to the highest level. If I've learnt anything from this game, it's that six months is a long time in rugby.
"You can be on top of the world one minute, and then six months later, you can be down and out and your phone's not ringing anymore! So you just have to enjoy it while you can," he conceded.
A try-laden win this weekend would be the perfect send-off to the old Lansdowne and a solid set-up for the 2007 Six Nations. A try or two for D'Arcy, who has not scored since last February's loss to France, would just top it off.
"This team has to learn how to become comfortable with winning consistenly. We've just beaten two very good teams and we're playing another good team this weekend and they deserve all the respect they're going to get from us - but we have to beat them," he added.
"I think we have to be striving to reach the stars every time we set out on the field. If you lose, you bring yourself down. So we must respect the Pacific Islands, they are a good team. But we have to beat them, and we have to play rugby like we've been playing for the past two weeks."
Exclusive Access, Tickets, Competitions and Much More