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Darren Cave hungry for another chance to impress after shining alongside Keith Earls

By David Kelly

Published 11/08/2015

Double act: Keith Earls and Darren Cave both came to the fore during the warm-up game against Wales
Double act: Keith Earls and Darren Cave both came to the fore during the warm-up game against Wales

The numbers shouldn't be adding up to Keith Earls having any chance of making this World Cup squad.

Sure, he had 39 caps, but none of them were under Joe Schmidt; he hadn't played for some 29 months, in which time Ireland had secured two Six Nations titles without him.

There were seven other wingers jostling for inclusion and a couple of slipped tackles in the opening minutes last Saturday made one fear that the Moyross man needed something special to prosper.

Thankfully, Earls is a player capable of doing just that; it is early days yet but he may just have jinked his way beyond the queue of wide men.

His versatility remains a boon which, arguably, may in a jot see him surpass Fergus McFadden, while Craig Gilroy and Dave Kearney, sitting at home, would have winced enviously at Earls' wizardry.

"I probably had the worst 24 hours of my life with nerves but it was great to get back and get my first game under Joe Schmidt. Thankfully, everything went well," said Earls. "There were a couple of individuals who put their hand up.

"It was a first game in a couple of months for a few fellas so we were sucking diesel a bit."

Ulster's Darren Cave, reunited with his erstwhile 2007 U20 Grand Slam team-mate and subsequent Churchill Cup midfield partner from 2009 (when Cave played outside him), saw first-hand just what his fellow 27-year-old can offer.

"His form has been absolutely incredible since the end of last season," said Cave of the player who has recovered admirably since January following complicated knee surgery.

"We were keeping an eye on him at Ulster because we knew we were going to have to play them and yet he still managed to score in that game.

"Centre or wing, wherever he plays, his feet are electric. It's nice to play with players of that quality. We dovetailed well, I thought. I've always had a relationship going back to that U20s team. That's eight years ago so I've known him a long time.

"So I'd say we did look good together but then it's easy to look good together when you have his sort of quality outside you."

Cave may once again feature at outside centre when the Scots visit town this weekend.

It could be his final audition.

"It's hard to know," Cave said of Schmidt's intentions. "The one thing about over-thinking all that is that it could work against you.

"For me, I just wanted to play as well as I could, Earlsy wanted to play as well as he could. And it was in both of our interests to work together so that we went as well as possible.

"He got man of the match and I think he had a great game. And it's upwards and onwards now and you don't know what selections are going to be.

"A lot of players played well. And if you play well, that makes it easier for the guy beside you to play well.

"I don't think there were that many standout players. It wasn't a perfect performance, but it was a decent starting point.

"I'd love to get another chance. It's a bit early for me to be thinking about that, I'll take it when it comes."

As Saturday's display demonstrated, Cave will not be alone in harbouring such a burning ambition.

Ireland flanker Tommy O'Donnell has been ruled out of next month's World Cup after suffering a dislocated hip against Wales.

The 28-year Munster forward, who has won nine caps, was carried off during the second-half after producing an outstanding display. He spent Saturday night in hospital and subsequently underwent detailed medical checks.

In a statement, the Irish Rugby Football Union said: "Tommy will be limited to non-weight bearing activity for at least six weeks and has unfortunately been ruled out of participating in RWC15 (Rugby World Cup)."

The IRFU, meanwhile, said that wing Andrew Trimble will undergo "a precautionary scan" on the foot injury he suffered during the Wales match.

Belfast Telegraph

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