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Darren Cave is on top of world after making Ireland's World Cup Squad

By Jonathan Bradley

As the email to confirm his place in Ireland's World Cup squad finally landed in his inbox on Sunday evening, Darren Cave welcomed clarity on an issue that has "taken over" his life during the past number of months.

The Ulster centre has often been on the outside looking in when it comes to Irish selection, once summarising that perhaps his "face doesn't fit" with the national set-up, but consistently strong performances for his native province have now been handsomely rewarded.

It will be a first World Cup for the 28-year-old - who won the Ulster Rugby Supporters Club's Outstanding Player of the Season award for his efforts last year - and he is glad to at long last to look forward to the tournament in earnest.

"It was great to hear something in the end because it's taken over my life over the last couple of months," he said.

"It was a stressful weekend to say the least. I was checking the emails a few times.

"One came through on Sunday evening.

"I knew I had a decent chance but was also aware that it was hugely competitive in the backs.

"Thankfully it went my way in the end.

"My brother got married last week and it was nice to have a day away.

"The wedding just sort of crept up on me as I hadn't been looking forward to it that much as it (the impending squad selection) has consumed my life over the last couple of months.

"It's nice to get some clarity and put a line under things."

Indeed, such was the Holywood man's excitement over his inclusion, he joked that he had to read his confirmation email several times to ensure it was not sent in error.

"You sort of get up on Monday and double check the email is still there and check it says dear Darren up at the top and that it wasn't a mistake," he said.

"At the time as well you don't know who's in, so as you come in to camp you see who's in and say, 'well done'."

With Ireland's squad only officially announced at Carton House yesterday - even though news of the travelling party emerged on Monday - Cave was initially forced to keep his selection under wraps, only letting a select few in on the secret.

"There wasn't too much said," he admitted.

"I let my girlfriend know and my parents at the time.

"Other than that I tried to keep it under the hat."

With six of his Ulster team-mates also named in the 31-strong panel, Cave believes that the increased representation reflects the progress being made at the Kingspan Stadium.

"I think it's testament to the work that's been done over the years," he said.

"Neil Doak always says when the team does better more players end up in the national squad.

"In the last four years Ulster have gone much better than in the past, we have been much more competitive.

"There's been some overseas players that have helped but there's also been a core of Irish players."

Selected ahead of a third scrum-half primarily for his ability to cover inside and outside centre, Cave will be expected to appear in both positions but recent performances with Ulster have highlighted his ability to handle the changing roles.

Jared Payne's move from fullback to 13, with a view to filling the void left in the Ireland set-up by Brian O'Driscoll's retirement, gave the nine-times capped Cave an opportunity to showcase his talents in the Ulster No 12 jersey last season and that versatility was yesterday hailed by head coach Joe Schmidt.

Confirming that he feels comfortable in either midfield slot, he concluded: "In the couple of run-outs I've had this year, one at 12, one at 13, they both went well, so I'm hoping to get back on the pitch soon."

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