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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Gordon D’Arcy – Ireland’s Longest-Serving International Player

Gordon D’Arcy – Ireland’s Longest-Serving International Player

Gordon D’Arcy will chalk up another career milestone this weekend when he becomes Ireland’s longest-serving international player. Mike Gibson’s long-standing record of 15 years and 128 days will be eclipsed by the Wexford man, who made his debut as a fresh-faced teenager against Romania during the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

It was a chilly October night at the old Lansdowne Road when Gordon D’Arcy entered the fray as a 60th minute replacement for Conor O’Shea. The then 19-year-old received a warm reception from the crowd and some immediate words of encouragement from Jonathan Bell and a goatee-wearing Eric Elwood.

His first cap came in a facile 44-14 pool win over Romania, wearing the number 16 jersey (no he wasn’t the sub hooker!) in an Irish team coached by Warren Gatland and captained by Dion O’Cuinneagain.

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The annoyingly catchy ‘Blue (Da Ba Dee)’ by Eiffel 65 was top of the Irish charts at the time, the Euro had made its debut on European financial markets, Ulster were European Rugby Cup champions and the Good Friday Agreement was approved by voters across the island in two referendums that May.

That seems a very long time ago now and D’Arcy, from free-spirited blond to Beard of the Year and his current rank of elder statesman of the Irish back-line, has certainly moved with the times. His decisive shift into the centre alongside Brian O’Driscoll set him up for a stellar, multi title-winning career with Leinster and Ireland and a brace of Lions tours. Two standout spells in green were marked by his talismanic performances in helping Ireland end their long wait for a Triple Crown in 2004, and his memorable try-scoring return from injury at the start of the 2009 Grand Slam run.

Before he hangs up his boots this autumn, D’Arcy stands on the cusp of a possible fourth Rugby World Cup and perhaps some final magic moments in the green shirt he made his own for so many years.

Speaking in June at a World Cup sponsorship event, the 35-year-old admitted: “Come the 31st of October, come hell or high water, I will not be playing professional rugby again. So, if I give it everything I have and I don’t get picked then I can walk away from it going, ‘listen, I have had an amazing career’.

“I am absolutely busting a gut to get into the squad, and not just into the squad, but into the starting line-up. That’s my aim. You reach for the stars, if you get it then great but, if you don’t, the sun will come up tomorrow morning and there so many other amazing things going on in my life. I’ve a new baby and I have a beautiful wife and all these things.”

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt paid tribute to D’Arcy this week as it was revealed that the Leinster centre’s 82nd international cap, which comes against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow, will see him become Ireland’s longest-serving player of all-time.

“He’s certainly had that long service. He’s shown his resilience through that time, through injury, and when he came in so young, it was a reasonably tough time for him,” Schmidt told Irish Rugby TV.

“He’s merited it. He’s worked incredibly hard for it, and hopefully we’ll see the fruits of some of that labour over the last six weeks demonstrated on Saturday because I know he’s really motivated to perform well (against Scotland).”

IRELAND’S LONGEST-SERVING INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS:

1. GORDON D’ARCY (October 15, 1999-August 15, 2015 (present); Age 19-35; Position: Centre; Caps: 82) Career Span: 15 years and 304 days * NEW RECORD

2. MIKE GIBSON (February 8, 1964-June 16, 1979; Age 21-36; Position: Centre; Caps: 69) Career Span: 15 years and 128 days

3. TONY O’REILLY (January 22, 1955-February 14, 1970; Age 18-33; Position: Winger; Caps 29) Career Span: 15 years and 23 days

4. BRIAN O’DRISCOLL (June 12, 1999-March 15, 2014; Age 20-35; Position: Centre; Caps: 133) Career Span: 14 years and 276 days

5. FERGUS SLATTERY (January 10, 1970-January 21, 1984; Age 20-34; Position: Flanker; Caps: 61) Career Span: 14 years and 11 days

6. KEVIN FLYNN (April 18, 1959-January 20, 1973; Age 20-33; Position: Centre; Caps: 22) Career Span: 13 years and 277 days

7. PAUL O’CONNELL (February 3, 2002-March 21, 2015 (present); Age 22-35; Position: Lock; Caps: 101) Career Span: 13 years and 46 days

8. WILLIE JOHN MCBRIDE (February 10, 1962-March 15, 1975; Age 21-34; Position: Lock; Caps: 63) Career Span: 13 years and 33 days

9. RAY MCLOUGHLIN (February 10, 1962-March 15, 1975; Age 22-35; Position: Prop; Caps: 40) Career Span: 13 years and 33 days

10. TOM KIERNAN (February 13, 1960-February 24, 1973; Age 21-34; Position: Full-Back; Caps: 54) Career Span: 13 years and 11 days