For those who have followed Darren Cave’s progress from his days with the Ulster and Ireland underage teams through to his recent breakthrough into Matt Williams’ Ulster side, his selection this week in Ireland’s RBS 6 Nations squad came as no surprise.
Darren Cave has made steady progress up the international ladder, with his highlights to date being the Ireland Under-20s’ Grand Slam success in 2007, back-to-back Churchill Cup Plate wins with the ‘A’ team and gaining qualification with the Irish Sevens side for this year’s Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament.
But his participation in the Sevens World Cup in Dubai in March is in some doubt after his call-up this week to Ireland’s RBS 6 Nations squad.
The Holywood youngster was one of seven uncapped players picked in Declan Kidney’s squad and he will be hoping to impress the Irish management at close quarters during next week’s squad sessions.
Commenting on his senior call-up, Cave said: “I’m delighted that Declan has picked me for his squad. As one of the younger players, I’m surprised that I was chosen and obviously I’m thrilled that I’m being given this opportunity.
“Ulster have been playing really well recently, we’re beginning to win more and more games and it’s clear that the players on the team are beginning to get noticed on a national level, which is fantastic.”
Cave has certainly made his mark in recent games, particularly in the Magners League interprovincial ties with a notable hat-trick of tries against Connacht, Leinster and Munster.
The 21-year-old centre knows his chances of getting game-time in the Six Nations are limited but he will not be linking up with the Irish squad to just make up the numbers.
Mixing with players he has looked up for some time – household names, Lions Test players and Triple Crown winners – he is determined to learn from them and get his own Test career off on the right note.
“I’m really looking forward to playing with the experienced members of the Ireland squad, especially with the previous Lions who have played in my position such as Brian O’Driscoll,” he admitted.
“I know I can learn a lot from these players and I’m keen to make the most of this opportunity.
“It’s a strong squad, I know there will be huge competition for the starting line-up, so I’ll be thrilled with any playing time that I’m given.”