Gordon D’Arcy has more of a point to prove than any other Lion after a miserable tour in 2005.
Earlier this week D’Arcy cut short his holiday in America, where he had just jetted into San Francisco, when he got the call to fly to Johannesburg. The No 12 has happily been thrust straight into the squad to face the Cheetahs and will be looking to prove a point to his detractors.
The Lions lost the series in New Zealand 3-0 and the Irish centre had a nightmare personally. There were stories that he had told then coach Clive Woodward he was ‘too tired to be selected’ for the final Test.
This has led many British writers and supporters to question his call-up to the Lions.
‘All I can say is I’ve never pulled out of a game of rugby,’ D’Arcy told keo.co.za. ‘I was very disappointed the way that was channeled to the media. I’m over it now and have had more to deal with in my life than one bad press conference.
‘I had to show a sense of character to put that out of my mind, but I am grateful for the opportunity from Geech [Ian McGeechan].’
D’Arcy is understandably not a fan of Woodward, who he has not spoken to since that 2005 tour. The Paddy, like the rest of the class of 2009, maintain this is a true team.
‘I don’t know why Clive said it. I don’t know what was going through his head. I’ve only been here a few days but there is a great feeling within this squad. There is joking on the buses and that sort of stuff, which didn’t happen then.
‘The intermingling has happened so much more naturally. This is a very different squad to 2005.’
In the past four years D’Arcy has struggled with various ailments. Numerous scars on his right arm testify the fact, but his recent form will see him pushing for a Test spot along side his familiar partner Brian O’Driscoll.
‘In November last year, I had just had my third operation on my arm. It kept me out of rugby for 11 months. At the start of the season I wasn’t really thinking of the Lions, just playing rugby was good enough. There were a few dark days, but I’m confident now that I’m back.
‘Jamie [Roberts] has started well, but there are still plenty of games left on tour. If I carry on with my form from the European Cup, you never know what happens.
‘Ever since New Zealand I’ve always had that Lions candle burning inside me. Now that I’m here, it’s burning stronger than ever.’
By Grant Ball, in Bloemfontein