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Darren Cave holds no fears stepping into Brian O'Driscoll's role

By Ruairdhri O'Connor

Darren Cave has waited a long time to take on what must be one of the most unenviable jobs in rugby.

How do you follow the greatest? As the first man to don the No 13 shirt since Brian O'Driscoll retired last weekend, Cave is about to find out.

He has watched his erstwhile nemesis' lap of honour from a front-row seat, training with the now-retired centre in Ireland camp and facing him for Ulster twice in the last few weeks.

Through all that time, tomorrow was circled on the calendar.

The beginning of 'life after BOD' has loomed large for Cave, who spent a large part of his career to date having his patience tested as he waited for his chance. Now he finally has a clear run at making the No 13 jersey his own.

Nobody will define the shirt like O'Driscoll did, but there is a small queue forming to succeed him.

Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne will have to wait for next season, Fergus McFadden could get a shot next week and Keith Earls will also be in the mix in November if he can manage to report for duty without picking up another unfortunate ailment.

But, when he takes to the field tomorrow in Resistencia, Cave will be the man in possession and it is up to him to make sure no one can wrest it off his back.

"I feel well prepared, I feel like I deserve the opportunity and it's up to me now to take it. I can't blame anyone else," he said.

"Luke Marshall will be alongside me in the midfield, I have played plenty of games alongside him and, yeah, I'll be slightly nervous, but I'll be even more excited and I don't think I have anything to be afraid of.

"While I haven't played a lot of international rugby, I have played a lot of big club games and I think I'm prepared for this opportunity.

"For a number of us there is a bit of an opportunity to see who is going to replace Brian and thankfully for me, I am going to have the first roll of the dice, the first rattle at it."

The long run-in to O'Driscoll's retirement last week allowed Joe Schmidt and his team plan for this moment and, although he would probably have liked to have had Henshaw here to give him a run-out before November, he has been impressed with Cave's form.

"We've had long discussions about who and how and what they're going to bring and I suppose my expectations of Darren Cave is that he continues to be the really clever player that he is," the head coach said.

"I think his passing game has improved immeasurably. Watching him go from the middle of the field to the edge of the field with his left hand is a massive bonus. It gives us scope to play.

"Defensively, he's a smart player, and I think the No 13, he's your hub. If your No 13 isn't a really switched-on defender for you, I think there's always a danger."

Belfast Telegraph


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