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Ulster's Cave eager to be centre of Schmidt's attention

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Ulster's Darren Cave knows he must continue to grasp the nettle through his performances if he is to win a place at centre for Ireland. Photo: John Dickson / SPORTSFILE

Ulster's Darren Cave knows he must continue to grasp the nettle through his performances if he is to win a place at centre for Ireland. Photo: John Dickson / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Ulster's Darren Cave knows he must continue to grasp the nettle through his performances if he is to win a place at centre for Ireland. Photo: John Dickson / SPORTSFILE

When Darren Cave met up with an extended Ireland squad in Carton House last week, he absorbed the message delivered by the head coach Joe Schmidt – concentrate on club form above all else.

Cave is one of a raft of candidates to succeed Brian O'Driscoll in the No 13 jersey; history will record that he was the first to do so on the summer tour to Argentina; that he was immediately supplanted in the second Test by Fergus McFadden reflects the bustling queue to fill that iconic jersey.

The Irish camp were broadly pleased with his displays in the summer; particularly so when he played at 13; the player himself received better notices from pundits for his performance at 12 in the second Test, which slightly mystified him.

No matter. This season begins with a clean slate. Whether it is Robbie Henshaw or Tommy Bowe, Cave or Gordon D'Arcy, they have been assured that all remain in the starting blocks. Form will decree those worthy of starts this November.

Cave, now an eight-season veteran at 27 but often unfairly isolated, perhaps due to geography rather than ability, may benefit from Schmidt's open policy to selection; ultimately, though, he knows he must continue to grasp the nettle through his performances.

"It was nice to link up ahead of the November internationals so we can hit the ground running," said Cave of the weekend gathering.

"Joe Schmidt just wants us to concentrate on our club form. He's very keen we don't get carried away with playing for Ireland. He just wants us playing well. We planted a few seeds for South Africa and then the boys who are lucky to get called down will be able to start motoring right away.

"I thought I played alright at 12 but I hoped to have played better. A lot of people on the outside the camp watching in focused on that but I actually thought I played better in the first game. I don't know, maybe I was watching a different game when I watched it back."

Cave has bulked up a tad; hence his switch to 12 in the summer and already this season with Ulster. Deep down, he still sees himself as primarily a 13 but ultimately he just craves being in the centre of the action.

"I want to see myself as an option at either," he said.  "If it's 12, it's 12, if it's 13 it's 13. We've a backlog of very good No 12s up here so the opportunities there could be limited. I'm just happy to be playing in the team."

Online Editors