Home Rugby Reflection on selection: Darren Cave a wronged player or northern whinger?
Cave continues to perform excellently.

Reflection on selection: Darren Cave a wronged player or northern whinger?

Matt Cassidy speaks about the international career, or lack thereof, of Ulsterman Darren Cave.

“Unfortunately for me internationally the last few years haven’t gone that well and sometimes you wonder does the face not fit,” a frustrated Darren Cave stated in an interview a couple of weeks ago about his Ireland snub. At first inspection, the comments from the 26-year-old outside centre can be interpreted as a disgruntled player who is upset at not seeing any game time during Ireland’s three Autumn Internationals. On closer inspection, however, Cave’s comments may have substance. He provides another example of fellow Ulsterman Roger Wilson as not having earned the requisite number of caps that his past performances have deserved and may even be alluding to a provincial bias in Irish selections.

Cave won his first international cap back in 2009 against Canada when most of Ireland’s frontline players were touring South Africa as Lions. Since then he has gone on to win four further caps but has never been included in a Six Nations or Autumn International match day squad. The biggest obstacle to Cave’s quest to obtain more caps has been the irrepressible Brian O’ Driscoll. However the past series of international games probably has been the most disappointing for the Holywood man due to the fact that O’ Driscoll’s powers are on the wane and the Leinster man had only seen 73 minutes of competitive action before togging out against Samoa. Yet despite showing some consistent displays in the early season against the likes of European heavyweights Leicester and Montpeiller, Cave was overlooked for even a squad place as Schmidt opted for Connacht’s Robbie Henshaw and Leinster’s Luke Fitzgerald for the games against Australia and New Zealand respectively in which both came on to replace O’ Driscoll at outside centre.

Cave’s sense of angst is felt more acutely by the fact that neither Henshaw nor Fitzgerald regularly play at provincial level in the outside centre berth yet have jumped him in the queue to be O’Driscoll’s replacement. The Ulsterman may also point to Keith Earls as winning more caps at outside centre. Earls is a fine winger but at no point has ever shown that he is a capable replacement for O’Driscoll and yet has won more caps as an outside centre than Cave.

An interesting part of the interview was when Cave spoke of Ulster No. 8 Roger Wilson as another player who was suffering from his plight of one’s face not fitting. But when he mentioned Jamie Heaslip could Cave have been suggesting that recent Irish selections favoured Leinster players over Ulster players?

Looking at this claim more in depth Ulster players have probably not been rewarded for their provincial performances with international caps. Dan Tuohy, for example, arguably Ireland’s form second row, was not selected for the recent tests or Chris Henry, described as Europe’s form seven before last year’s Six Nations by many commentators, did not earn a starting spot for the tournament. Although these players and other Ulstermen can count themselves unlucky not to have earned more caps I highly doubt that the IRFU has a bias towards players from the southern provinces.

It can be argued that the southern media might not tend to favour players from the North such as the constant berating of Andrew Trimble’s performance if he makes a mistake or the treatment Paddy Jackson received from some quarters of the media for the debacle in Murrayfield. But I would suggest that this is just a north/ south rivalry which is seen in other sports too, for instance, the sniping towards the Donegal team of 2012 who conquered all in front of them with a combination of overwhelming pace and power, yet were considered as boring from many media outlets.

Darren Cave’s assessment of “his face not fitting” may be correct. Just ask Geordan Murphy or Trevor Brennan! However by suggesting that there is favouritism in the Ireland set up towards players of other provinces will not do his chances of international recognition any good and will only serve to create the image of a northern whinger.

Pundit Arena, Matt Cassidy.

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