Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

'Lazy' Darren Cave ups his game

Darren Cave pulls up a chair and the chat flows easily without ever losing sight of the rather pressing concern which is beating Munster tonight.

He knows, we all know, that it's another of those occasions that arrives with the label 'must-win' firmly attached to it in what, so far, has already been a season pock-marked with highs and lows.

As for Cave, he is not only wants the right result against Munster but is also eager to further boost his own game with what he describes as a more potent work-rate around the pitch.

Most players tend to be their own worst critics and Cave is no exception, grabbing your attention by throwing the term 'lazy' into describing his own previous efforts.

"The thing I have always struggled with is my work rate," he admits.

"I don't know if I'm just naturally lazy, or if it was just a bad habit, but I loved having the ball and when I didn't have it I was almost uninterested looking at times and it is something that I have really looked to address this season.

"It's all very well throwing the ball around and getting into the outside channel, but if you're going to lose it when you get there then it is no good to anyone," he adds before expanding on the need to be an all-round operator in midfield.

"Brian O'Driscoll (pictured) and Gordon D'Arcy are both good at the breakdown and you can throw Fergus McFadden into that as well as he is very physical there.

"It is something that the backline (at Ulster) is always looking to improve on and I'm definitely including myself in that," the 24-year-old says.

Getting back to more immediate matters, Cave fully accepts that hopes of making a second consecutive top four finish certainly could do with a boost and no better time than in front of this evening's full house at Ravenhill.

"Last year in the league I think we only lost six games and we have lost six already this season and there is no hiding the fact that we can't be losing many more games in this league.

"Indeed, we can't afford to lose many more games in both competitions (the League and Europe) or we are going to find ourselves out of them," Cave admits.

However, the centre is also keen to point out that Ulster can still turn their League season around.

"We are only nine points away from the play-offs and we really don't feel that we have played our best rugby in the League at all."

"If we can close the gap coming towards the last three games of the season then there is no reason why we can't get into the play-offs," he states.

There is logic to his argument but only if Ulster can put together a few more League wins before they arrive at their final three scheduled encounters which are all interprovincial clashes with Munster in Thomond Park being last up.

But that's looking too far ahead. Munster now have to be seen off and Cave doesn't hold back when discussing the importance of a positive result.

"They have beaten us a few times in the last few years, but we feel that it is our time to stop talking about how we have closed the gap and start showing it."

Looking further ahead, the twice-capped Ireland international - played for the national side alongside Ian Whitten in tests against Canada and the USA in 2009 - knows that the next month is key to Ulster's season and his own hopes of possibly being involved again in the national squad. After all a certain Mr O'Driscoll is out of action and no better time to challenge the front-runners, Keith Earls and Fergus McFadden.

"These four games on the bounce in the next month aren't only massive for Ulster but massive for myself.

"For me, if you can prove you can hold your own, and more, in those sorts of games then international selectors can't ignore you.

"If I don't get picked then I have no one to blame but myself," he adds.

Still, Cave is wholly focused on the task ahead of him for Ulster and he feels ready to meet it.

"I'm happy with how I've been playing, I'm injury free and the body feels brilliant.

"It is up to me to show what I can do."

His opportunity awaits.

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