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Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Joe Giddens/EMPICS Sport Darren Cave looks set for a starting role against Fiji.
# cave dwelling
November tests: Cave wants to be centre of attention against Fiji
The Ulsterman’s sights are also on the number 13 jersey for the crucial tie against Argentina next weekend.

TO SAY DARREN CAVE launched his career at the Thunderbird Stadium would be far too easy. It would also be slightly inaccurate.

Just two caps have followed since Cave’s debut against Canada at the University of British Columbia campus, Vancouver, in 2009.

A number of factors have intervened since that 25-6 win over the Canadians but two of the biggest have been Brian O’Driscoll and his heir apparent, Keith Earls.

The 25-year-old chatted to the media at Carton House on Tuesday and joked that his chances for selection against Fiji must be good if he was sent out to answer our questions.

“There are going to be a few changes and hopefully I’m one of them,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting back in green. It’s been a while.”

Cave last appeared for Ireland as a replacement for Earls in the 42-10 loss to the All Blacks at Eden Park in June.

He told TheScore.ie, ”I played the same age grade as Keith and Cian Healy and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look at them, with their 30 or 40 caps they’re on now, and be happy for them but a small bit envious. If they were willing to swap for my three [caps] I’d be happy for them to.” He added:

In the early part of my career I was a victim of playing for a pretty average team. Now that the team is going a bit better, I suppose Brian [O'Driscoll] has just dominated that shirt and I missed the Six Nations through injury and Keith came in and played fantastically well and continued until the end of the season.

“He’s in control of that [position] for now.”

Next in line

Cave has been an integral part of a resurgent Ulster side that reached last season’s Heineken Cup Final and are so far unbeaten in their current league and European campaign.

“I’ve always been one to say that playing for a good team helps your international chances,” Cave commented.

“Looking at Munster and Leinster in the past I would have been somewhat envious. The phrase ‘shop window’ comes to mind.” He added:

If you look at Ulster in the last while, and playing those Heineken Cup games, Dan Tuohy got his chance during the summer and Chris Henry has come in at home now and performed really well.

“I just have to hope that I’m next on the list.”

Coach Declan Kidney remarked earlier in the year that the centre would have been called into Ireland’s Six Nations squad had it not been for a foot injury.

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Cave celebrates after Ulster knocked Munster out of last season’s Heineken Cup. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

Rather than get discouraged, Cave has returned to full fitness and has been motivated by the international elevation of some fringe players.

“You almost feel like you’re getting left behind,” he admitted, “but you look at someone like Mike McCarthy and Chris Henry – Chris is three years older than me and Mike is more than that – they can come in.

There were probably times of their career when they thought ‘flip, this is never going to happen for me’ but they’ve come in and played against the second best team in the world and have both come out of it looking really well.

“I just hope it can happy to me and sooner rather than later.”

Focus on Fiji

Cave, Holywood’s other sporting hero after Rory McIlroy, reveals that the Irish squad were ’bitterly disappointed’ by the loss to a side he genuinely believes were second best on the night.

He said, “The more people spoke about the players that weren’t there, the more it motivated us. Particularly the players that have been around a wee while – the likes of Jonny Sexton and Jamie Heaslip.

“They wanted the talking to stop and to start that new legacy – that’s why that result was such a bitter pill to swallow.”

Gordon D’Arcy expressed surprise before the South Africa game that Ireland’s recent win/loss record was so poor. Cave echoed the Wexford native’s sentiments.

“The same thing happened to me last week,” he remarked. “Someone said it to me and I didn’t realise we were on such a bad run.

“I suppose it’s the first time we’ve played New Zealand three times in a row but they are twenty-something games unbeaten.” He added:

If you look at it as a fact it doesn’t make good reading but, at the same time, people aren’t worried about it.

“Hopefully we can get a couple of wins in the next couple of weeks and set that record straight.”

“I’m looking forward to this weekend,” Cave added. “It’s about playing a structured game but when it gets loose, and we know it will with Fiji, a lot of our backs, like myself, can capitalise on that looseness.”

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