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Thursday 2 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan Darren Cave gives Keith Earls a friendly shove.
# pecking order
Cave hounding for his Irish chance as 3 Lions men return
Dave McSharry should be the latest in a long line of partners to benefit from linking up with the Ulster centre.

DARREN CAVE HAS been forced to grit his teeth, shelf his disappointment and focus on provincial form as his contemporaries have passed him by.

The Ulster centre has been involved with the Irish ‘A’ team since 2008 and has taken to the field with players such as Keith Earls, Jonathan Sexton and Cian Healy.

While those players have taken the jump to the senior team, Cave has ping-ponged between the two camps. Three full caps is the sum total he has amassed.

The last of those caps came in the First Test against New Zealand. The 25-year-old was sprung from the bench with eight minutes to go, Earls nursing his shoulder and Ireland 35-10 down.

For the Third Test, he watched from the stands in Hamilton as Paddy Wallace, summoned from a sun holiday, started against the All Blacks for an unmerciful beating.

Cave, though, has been undeterred by the international setbacks and has formed partnerships with Wallace [productive] and Luke Marshall [dynamic] at Ulster.

Regarding Henry

Cave does not have to look too far for a tale of perseverance paying off. He notes the Irish advancement of a player that appeared in the closing stages of that 60-0 defeat to the ABs in Hamilton.

Cave told TheScore.ie, “I’ve probably taken more inspiration from what the likes of Chris Henry has done, and Mike McCarthy.

They are slightly older. Chris, in particular, has been around for a while, he’s played a lot of good rugby, and is only getting his opportunities now and has taken them.

“It inspires and encourages me to keep working hard. He’s a couple of years older than me so I’m going to keep working hard and hopefully my opportunity will come.”

Cave performed extremely well in Ireland Select’s 53-0 win over Fiji in November but it was the hat-trick of Ulster colleague Craig Gilroy that garnered the praise and promotion.

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“It has been an incredibly tough backline to get into for the last couple of years,” Cave conceded. “If you look at what the squad is like now from back in November, we have three Lions players coming back in so it gets tougher again.”

He is partnered in midfield for the match against the England Saxons, tonight [7:35pm], by Dave McSharry, another player spoken of in glowing terms.

He said, “My focus is not getting carried away with what other people are doing. I have to keep getting selected for Ulster and playing well.

“Hopefully then, when I’m down in [Ireland] camp, and I get the opportunity, I’ll look to play as well as I can.”

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