Rugby World Cup: Jared Payne won't let the critics affect his mindset insists Darren Cave
Darren Cave has joined the growing chorus of support for his Ulster team-mate Jared Payne following the naturalised Kiwi's performance in Ireland's World Cup win over Romania at the weekend.
Ahead of Sunday's clash against Italy, Payne's contribution to the victory over the Romanians was criticised by former Ulster coach Matt Williams - acting as a television pundit - with the comments drawing nods of agreement from one-time Irish stalwarts Keith Wood and Peter Stringer.
In spite of glowing praise from Joe Schmidt in a post-match press conference for the man who has replaced Brian O'Driscoll in Ireland's No.13 jersey, Williams, who also coached Scotland at international level, said that Ireland had "huge issues" in their midfield and complained that Payne had made "really poor decisions" in the Wembley Stadium romp.
Speaking yesterday, Cave rebuked the TV3 panel and said: "In fairness to Jared, I'd be surprised if he's paid much attention to it, but if it was me I would probably be pretty annoyed at it.
"It can be frustrating when guys are just throwing out opinions which aren't based on facts of what actually happened in the game, then suddenly that becomes everyone else's opinion - guys who've had a couple of beers and watched the game.
"Then after a week it's the perception of half the nation and it's just completely false.
"It can be frustrating at times but Jared will do the right thing, he'll keep his head down, he'll keep working hard and he'll keep playing well for Ireland."
One day prior, Tommy Bowe had rejected Williams' comments as those of someone acting as a "bad cop", perhaps alluding to comparisons made between his former provincial coach's words and similar criticisms of Payne aired previously.
It was an assertion that Cave backed.
"The first I heard about it was after Tommy had been in Monday's press conference, because Tommy and I had actually had a chat last week about how much we were both looking forward to playing beside him," said the 28-year-old who made his World Cup debut in the No.12 jersey alongside Payne against Romania.
"So Tommy brought it up but it's not something that consumes us. I actually thought the Canada game was potentially Jared's best game in green.
"I haven't seen fully what was said about him but I've seen a few things. And it's just opinion at the end of the day, it's not really based on fact.
"I heard about him apparently kicking the ball away too much but I think he kicked the ball twice and both times it was penalty advantage, and both times we went back for the penalty.
"So we'll just deal with the facts, not opinions."
Echoing similar statements made by Ian Madigan last week, Cave continued: "I really enjoyed playing alongside him.
"When I was named at 12 and he was named at 13 beside me, I knew I'd feel very comfortable in there.
"He's an incredible communicator and a lot of his qualities, you can see the way he's been brought up, everything he does is so simple.
"I think he sees space really well, he makes really good, strong decisions on the ball and he's a good communicator so he's really good to defend with.
"You want to play with guys who make your job easier, and the amount of information he gives you, I think he's done very well for Ireland over the past while.
"If anything I suppose I'd be a bit jealous that I haven't got as many games as he has over the last year and done as well as he has been doing."
With Italy next up at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday, Cave has suggested that the Ireland squad have more to offer despite claiming all 10 points available to them in Pool D so far.
"Obviously we know Italy very well, playing against a lot of their players in the PRO12 week to week and numerous tussles in the Six Nations over the last number of years," he said.
"I think there is definitely at least another gear in the group."
Captain Sergio Parisse may return for the Italians - he arrived at the tournament yesterday after missing the first two games and having a calf haematoma drained - and, despite stuttering so far, Cave is aware of the threat posed by Jacques Brunel's side with or without their talisman.
"It's essentially a knock-out game for Italy, and not too far off it for us. They will have Sergio Parisse back in the mix and even if they don't they have some massive threat," he said.
"Michele Campagnaro has done really well for them the last couple of weeks.
Leonardo Sarto is another who, at international and club level, has caused Irish teams problems."
Pool D: Olympic Stadium, Sun 4.45 pm (ITV)