'I'm really not too sure what the future holds': Ulster's Cave considers next move

The 31-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season.

DARREN CAVE IS facing into a number of big career decisions in the coming weeks, but the Ulster centre’s immediate priority is on doing whatever he can to help the province into the Pro14 play-offs.

Out of contract at the end of the season, Cave has not yet decided if he will extend his playing career into the 2019/20 campaign, having seen a number of his team-mates and friends move on in recent times.

Darren Cave Cave has made 10 appearances this season. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The 31-year-old has just returned from a fractured thumb which kept him out for eight weeks before Christmas, and started the recent inter-pros against Connacht and Leinster, while also featuring in the Pro14 draw against Benetton.

But it is clear Dan McFarland is making a concerted effort to give the province’s young academy talent the experience and exposure required to build squad depth at Kingspan Stadium, and Cave is now very much one of the elder statesmen of the dressing room.

Having made his debut back in 2007, the Holywood native has 220 appearances for his native province, while also winning 11 Ireland caps, and he now must decide on whether now is the right time to begin the next chapter of his life.

“I’m really not too sure what the future holds for me, if I’m honest,” he tells The42. “It’s something I’ll have to make a decision on in the coming months.”

Cave has already invested in opportunities outside of rugby having opened a coffee and donut shop in Belfast with former Ulster prop Callum Black in 2017.

He continued: “I haven’t made up my mind what I’m going to do yet. I’ve found it tough off the pitch when you lose so many friends. A lot of them were very good friends of mine, so I have found the last while tough but at the same time I have enjoyed working with the younger guys. 

“It’s a strange one, Chris Henry, Andrew Trimble, Tommy Bowes, they’re guys I’ve known for 13 years. Not far off half my life, so to lose them you lose a lot of your friends from your daily routine.

“I feel like physically I have a lot more in me, but there are opportunities outside of rugby that are of interest to me. I’ll have to make that call.”

Although in two minds over his future, Cave — a one-club man throughout his career — is cognisant of the fact this Ulster squad’s development will benefit from the experience he can lend to the environment on a daily basis. 

While McFarland’s side qualified for a first Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final in five years, where they will face Leinster in an All-Ireland showdown at the Aviva, of more pressing concern for Cave is Ulster’s league situation.

Darren Cave and Bundee Aki after the game Cave with Bundee Aki after the recent inter-pro derby. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

One win in their last three Pro14 outings has left them fifth in Conference B and with plenty of work to do ahead of a crunch block of fixtures during the Six Nations period, starting with a trip to Ospreys on Friday week. 

“For me, this Six Nations window isn’t about an individual agenda, I’ve been around too long to be worrying about who is starting,” Cave says.

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“I would love to be starting as many games as possible but the important thing for me is that I’m part of an Ulster squad that is competitive in the Pro14. Regardless of how much I play over the next while, we need results in the Pro14.

“It’s not like we can start looking at that Leinster game and say whatever happens, happens between now and then in the league. We need to win games, we want to be in the play-offs and in the Champions Cup.

Before I start worrying about who is playing against Leinster, we need to really get some momentum in the league and put in good performances without our international players, or else we’ll end up playing in the Challenge Cup next season and that’s not where we want to be.

He adds: “We’re very happy with where we are in Europe, but having said that I think we’re still on a journey. You’ve seen in the league, our performances have fluctuated a bit. We’re looking to get that depth of player and that level of consistency.

“We have to make sure we’re playing Champions Cup rugby again next year. We’re happy with where we’re going, but not content with where we are.”

Darren Cave was speaking to The42 as a Volkswagen ambassador. Volkswagen is a proud partner of Irish Rugby. 

Source: vwireland/YouTube

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