Cave claims 'face doesn't fit' as he airs frustrations over Ireland snub
Ulster centre Darren Cave has risked burning his bridges with Ireland after he admitted that his "face may not fit" following his omission from the November internationals.
Cave has claimed that his Heineken Cup form should have propelled him to the front of the queue behind Brian O'Driscoll during the three-match series. "Unfortunately for me internationally the last few years haven't gone that well and sometimes you wonder does the face not fit," said Cave, who was brought in as cover by Joe Schmidt last month only for Robbie Henshaw and Luke Fitzgerald to leapfrog him.
"Any time I'm unfortunate to read a paper that I'm mentioned in, quite often it says how I'm not established for Ulster or not first choice for Ulster, and inexperienced at international level, or for some reason not good enough to be an international rugby player.
"I don't know how these people see that as I've never really had a good crack at doing it.
"I suppose it's all motivation for me, but I still wonder sometimes does the face not fit. If you don't know what I mean by that I suppose you should ask Roger Wilson how he has one cap for Ireland and Jamie Heaslip has 60 and two Lions tours behind him."
Cave has won just five caps in as many years; injury has often disrupted his opportunity to stake a claim with Ireland. Ulster's New Zealand-born 'project player' Jared Payne has been earmarked in some quarters as the natural successor to O'Driscoll when the Leinster centre retires next summer.
"It was frustrating for me at times," Cave adds of his recent November experience with Ireland. "I'm actually a big fan of Joe Schmidt even though I don't know if he's a big fan of me."
"He's (Schmidt) an incredibly likeable person and he really knows his rugby, which means that my non-selection is a bit harder," added Cave.
"But he's given me a couple of things to work on and I think I've shown that it's not just the last two games... it's my form in the Heineken Rounds 1 and 2 and I've shown I can cause problems for defences as part of this Ulster team.
"One of the things Joe said to me was that Brian O'Driscoll was going to be Robbie's guide for November and I was left out initially because he thought Robbie could learn a lot more off him during the November series.
"That's probably fair enough, but at the end of the day I've played over 100 games for Ulster and I don't need my hand held through it. Though I didn't get that close to be involved in November I would argue that I don't think any of the Irish-qualified centres played better than me in the Heineken Rounds 1 and 2.
"If that's the way Joe wants to take things it's disappointing for me but it doesn't mean I'm not going to get picked for Ulster and try and win games for Ulster.
"I'll try and make it hard for him anyway."