Having watched the centre partnership of Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy rock on the caps for Ireland, Ireland’s Darren Cave was biding his time.
Despite being brought in to an Irish squad for the firsttimethe during 2009 6 Nations, the Ulster centre has amassed just 7 senior caps since . Waiting for a chance in a role which saw O’Driscoll and D’Arcy become the most capped centre partnership in world rugby was tough. But Cave insists there is no feeling sorry for oneself and now feels his game has improved since his introduction.
“It was those two for such a long time. But the important thing is not to feel sorry for yourself: as soon as you appreciate that they are very good players, and credit to them also for their longevity not just how good they are, Gordon’s still going strong. It’s important not to feel sorry for yourself, just keep improving, improving and improving. The one thing that I probably found most frustrating is that I think I probably have improved a lot since 2009.
“When I first got in the squad I was just there because I was a young lad, I hadn’t really done a lot but I’d played okay and was maybe someone for the future. I feel I have improved a lot in those five or six years, and that was probably what can be frustrating. But now here’s an opportunity for me to stop complaining and start playing well.”
Fast forward to the Autumn of 2014 and Cave looked set to be watching from the outside once more. An initial call from Joe Schmidt to tell him he wasn’t in the extended squad of 37 was expected. What began with a week off from the Provincial game last week in New York
however, ended with a call on Sunday from Joe Schmidt telling bringing him into the training.
“I’ve been around the game a while now and sure it’s a fickle world, professional sports is the most fickle thing. If ever I needed a reminder of that it’s been the last couple of weeks. It was only two or three weeks ago I was on the phone to Joe, talking about how I wasn’t going to be involved in the camp week.
“It was a phone call I was expecting to be honest. This year at Ulster has been a bit stop start for me. I got a shoulder operation in the summer, misssed the first game I played my first game back then, the week after I played eight minutes and popped a rib and then I struggled a wee bit. Jared came back from injury and played well. I just hadn’t really got going. I know I had played a lot of decent rugby in the past but I wasn’t overly surprised that he said you were goign to miss out this time.”
After missing out on the visit of South Africa, which saw the surprise inclusion of Robbie Henshaw at 12, having played very little there previously, Cave saw his chance come through the misfortune of his provincial teammate. After seeing Jared Payne helped from the field
in the second half against the Springboks, the door opened for Cave.
“Got a phone call from him on Sunday saying come on in to camp and I’m thrown in to play there. I’m delighted for it. It’s a bit more unorthodox than normal but I’m ready to play. It’s not a problem. I only came in here Monday evening and got wind I might get a game on Tuesday. Only found out on Wednesday.
“It’s such a cliche, but I haven’t been worrying about the implications of playing. I’ve literally trying to find my feet, learning my detail, doing video and get ready to play. I haven’t started worrying about who is doing what, how Jared’s foot is and the implications are for the week after.”
Cave spoke about watching Ireland play at Lansdowne Road since he was knee-high and this weekend’s occasion being a special one for him and his family. But as the call up and being thrown into the first team happened so quickly for him, he feels he hasn’t had time to worry about the occasion. It will see him run out for the first time on Irish soil and after injuries and a long time waiting in the shadows, he has his chance to put all the past to bed as he looks set to nail down a regular starting place in the Irish team.
“Exactly, that’s how I feel. There’s been a lot of talking and humming and hearing about who’s doing what. I just try to play as well as I can when I get the opportunity to play. I suppose that’s all I can do. I would have liked to have played more for Ulster this year, but there’s been a couple of injuries and a couple of bad strokes of luck.
“All that’s forgotten about now, I’m picked to play for Ireland this weekend and hopefully I’ll get a good run-out and give it my all and afterwards I won’t be sitting with any regrets.”
Cillian O Conchuir, Pundit Arena.