Schmidt shrugs off Cave complaints
JOE SCHMIDT has defended Darren Cave, despite the Ulster centre's decision to vent his international frustration in public.
The 26-year-old did not feature during the November internationals despite being involved in camp and aired his grievances in an interview published yesterday, questioning whether his "face doesn't fit" with Ireland, and saying: "I'm actually a big fan of Joe, even though I don't know if he's a big fan of me".
Cave took the trouble of contacting Schmidt yesterday morning to explain his comments and told the coach that he was disappointed with the article, claiming he did not feel it was a reflection of what he had said.
The coach shrugged off the issue, saying he retains a good relationship with the centre, who has won five caps for his country.
"I understand his frustration, there is always player frustration," Schmidt said. "There's coach frustration – two weeks ago (against New Zealand) I was at the zenith of it. Sometimes you feel you deserve or merit something and you don't get it.
"To be honest, I haven't seen the article, but for Darren to ring me ... he and I have had a pretty positive relationship. I've known Darren when he was playing for Ulster.
"He has always been a threat that I've been aware of when he's playing for Ulster. He was super in camp during the autumn and we've talked about some things that he's working on and we're looking for him to deliver.
"I think some of his frustration is borne out by the fact that Ireland's best ever rugby player (Brian O'Driscoll) is playing in the same position for those years that he hasn't been selected.
"I don't think it's a recent thing either. I think they were talking over a longer period than just the autumn where he didn't get onto the field despite being involved in the camp."
Schmidt said that he and his squad would relish another tilt at the All Blacks in November 2014, with rumours circulating about a potential rematch outside of the IRB window. "If you polled the players I'm sure you'd have a pretty positive response," he said.
Meanwhile, Leinster coach Matt O'Connor yesterday confirmed that Brian O'Driscoll will start against Northampton tomorrow.