Lion D’Arcy looking to make up lost ground fast

Gordon D’Arcy was at an airport in San Francisco when he got the call to join up with the British and Irish Lions team in South Africa.

That meant he had to fly half way around the world on Wednesday and Thursday knowing that, for the second Lions tour in a row, he may not even get on the field in the tests against the Springboks.

“It was a hell of a journey,” he said Friday after being named as one of the replacements for Saturday’s game against the Cheetahs only a day after he arrived.

“I wasn’t actually on holiday. I hadn’t even arrived. I was at the airport and I got turned back around.”

Instead of being on a California beach, D’Arcy is training with the Lions hoping to play in the tests at Durban (June 20), Pretoria (June 27) and Johannesburg (July 4).

“I had a good night’s sleep last night, had a run around today and didn’t feel any ill effects so they put me on the bench. I’m obviously not going to be completely at speed with the intricacies of the major game plan and the overall game plan but, at the end of the day, it’s not all that hard to get the ball and get over the gain line.”

When D’Arcy was on the last Lions tour of New Zealand four years ago, he couldn’t reproduce his form and didn’t play in any of the tests, which the tourists feebly lost 3-0. Now the talented Ireland center is in South Africa as backup in case the squad gets any more injuries.

Although England’s Riki Flutey is sidelined with a knee problem, D’Arcy has to get past at least three players to get a start with countryman Brian O’Driscoll sure to play and Jamie Roberts of Wales likely to be alongside.

“There’s plenty of games left on tour. I came out to fill in for certain people at the moment but, if I carry my form in, you never know what might happen,” he said.

“Jamie Roberts and Brian obviously played tremendously well on Wednesday night. I had a look at the video today and they did pretty much everything right.

“But I had a little candle burning that I was going to get a call so I’ll have a little candle burning that I can force my way into the test side.”

For several years, the imaginative, fast-running D’Arcy has been Ireland’s ideal partner at center for O’Driscoll both in attack and defense and would have played more times for his country if he had not been out for a long injury spell in 2004 and broken his arm in several places in the opening game of the 2008 Six Nations championship.

Sitting by the pool at the team’s hotel in Bloemfontein, D’Arcy looked as he had been in the squad all along with a familiar group of stars who have been here since May 24.

“I know pretty much everybody here,” he said.

“Obviously I’ve been playing with them or against them or on the last tour and the Barbarians games.”

D’Arcy has the experience and the skill to fit into the side without much effort and was a surprise omission in the first place.

It’s just that he has come a much longer way than the others to get here.


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