Darren Cave will captain Ulster in Saturday’s PRO14 against Leinster to mark his retirement from the game.
Ulster head coach Dan McFarland says the 32-year-old outside centre will be given the opportunity to bow out in style, leading the team out at Kingspan Stadium for the final Conference B game of the season.
Cave, with 226 Ulster appearances, is unlikely to catch record-holder Andrew Trimble (229) unless he plays a meaningful role in their chase for a PRO14 title.
Connacht travel to Belfast for the quarter-final on Saturday week, with Munster potentially next up for the winners.
Saturday’s game is essentially a dead rubber with both provinces already assured of a place in the knockout stages, but McFarland insisted it will be “a huge day” for Cave.
“It means a lot to Darren to represent this province, to have played for one club throughout his career. He’s so proud to have done that.”
As well as earning 11 caps for Ireland, Cave was part of the Irish U20s side that won the Grand Slam 12 years ago - when his current club boss was coaching the underage team’s forwards.
“I’ve known Darren since 2007,” said McFarland, “there were a lot of players in that team who went on to have great careers and Darren is one of them.”
I’ve got a lot of time for him and one of the things I’ve noticed, he’s a smart fella. He doesn’t mind speaking his mind. He’s going to be successful. He’s confident.
“In terms of what he’s done with the squad this year, a lot of the charity work that’s done in the background, Darren has a leading hand in that.
“We’ve got plenty of people who can captain that team but Darren is a good leader of men. He’ll do a good job as the captain.”
McFarland will demand a performance from his side, even if there appears from the outside to be nothing at stake.
“Momentum is important definitely, but it will really test our squad,” stated the head coach.
“That’s what (Leinster) do all the time, that’s how they run their squad. We’re not there yet but we want to get there, utilising your whole squad throughout the year.
“We’ve used 47 players in the PRO14 this year, that will probably go up over 50 this weekend. Clearly, you need that.”