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Cave: I'm relishing chance of Ireland start

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Darren Cave, Ulster, is tackled by George North, Llanelli Scarlets. Picture: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

Darren Cave, Ulster, is tackled by George North, Llanelli Scarlets. Picture: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

Darren Cave, Ulster, is tackled by George North, Llanelli Scarlets. Picture: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

A cave is a dark and dreary place where depression can set in and fester.

Ulster centre Darren Cave could be forgiven for accepting he is destined for an even longer, darker period playing in the shadow of Brian O'Driscoll.

When 34-year-old O'Driscoll signed a one-year contract extension to play on for Ireland under incoming coach Joe Schmidt, it must have come as a big blow to the man from Holywood.

Cave, 26, made his Ireland debut four years ago – against Canada in the first of two caps on Ireland's two-Test tour to North America – for the paltry gain of three caps at a time when he was the only other regular 13 in the country.

This is a testament to O'Driscoll's durability and consistency and a reflection of how former Ireland coach Declan Kidney rated Cave, giving him his third and latest cap against New Zealand last November.

"I understand why I haven't played more with O'Driscoll having played so well for so long," he said.

"At the same time, it has been hard to watch so many players come in and out when I don't feel like I've had a fair crack of the whip internationally."

That O'Driscoll will leave on his fourth British and Irish Lions tour opens the door to a sense of déjà vu for Cave and further international exposure for another two-Test trip to North America in front of interim coach Les Kiss and Schmidt.

"With the Lions on there will be an opportunity and it's something I would relish," he said. "If I get the chance to wear the shirt again I'll be sure to make it hard for them to take it back off me."

NEMESIS

First, Cave may have to deal with his nemesis in the Rabodirect PRO12 League final at the RDS on Saturday, as O'Driscoll has declared himelf fit after the back problem that kept him out of the Amlin Challenge Cup final.

The ambition to capture more silverware is something that keeps O'Driscoll in the game. The need for any silverware is what drives Cave on.

"There are a lot of players who have been here for a long time without winning anything so there is a determination to put that right," he said.

"It's a special thing to play for Ulster but it means even more if you're part of a side who win something and now we have the chance to do that."

The slight from being annihilated by Leinster in the 2012 Heineken Cup final has been partly diminished by Ulster's double over their rivals in the PRO12 League this season.

"We feel like we owe them one a bit after they beat us quite badly. But, at the same time, we've beaten them twice this season, once down there, so they'll be feeling the same."


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