Ireland and Ulster Centre Darren Cave has become one of the most consistent performers in the Pro 12 league over recent seasons, exciting fans with his running lines and hard hitting in defence.
The physical challenges of a tough domestic and international fixture list can be significant, requiring a close attention to recovery and rest. We caught up with Darren to find out how he is making his new Mammoth part of that regime.
What made you decide to become a rugby player?
I have always been a big rugby fan and by the time I finished school it definitely seemed like a better idea than getting a proper job. I get to do something I love every day for a living.
If you had to describe your rugby career in three words, what would they be?
Enjoyable. Exhausting. Rollercoaster.
And how would your rugby teammates describe you?
I’m not sure I’d like to publicise what they would say about me! Hopefully there would be something nice in there, though.
What would class as your proudest moment – either in sport or outside of it?
Playing for Ulster in a Heineken Cup Final would have to be right up there. And, of course, playing for Ireland in a Rugby World Cup is a very special thing.
If you weren’t playing rugby, what job do you think you’d be doing?
When I was younger, I always wanted to be a vet. I’d like to think if things hadn’t turned out the way they have that I could have been successful in that line of work.
Do you ever get star-struck – if so, who has left the greatest impression on you?
Usain Bolt was invited to be a guest in the Ireland camp once. I wouldn’t say that I often get star-struck, but that was definitely a day when I was in awe of someone.
What does your typical fitness regime involve?
There’s too much to write down. Particularly during a time like pre-season. There’s lots of weight training in the gym as well as many running drills. Rugby is both a very physical sport and one that requires immense stamina, so we have to try to be as explosive as possible, whilst also keeping our cardio levels high.
As I’ve become older I have also paid a lot more attention to training my core and stretching before and after sessions.
Can you tell us what you are looking forward to in the next 12 months and your hopes for the club?
Winning a trophy with Ulster is certainly a career goal of mine. We’ve given ourselves some good opportunities in the last few years so it would be nice to get across the line.
Mammoth mattresses are known for their health benefits, particularly for people recovering from injury or taking preventative steps to maintain condition. Have you suffered any injuries during your career?
Earlier in my career it was always my back and hamstrings that I had the most problems with. Over recent seasons the hits to the shoulder have also taken their toll and I had surgery on it not too long ago.
The back issue is always a bit of a hindrance as it can easily stiffen up. Before training and matches I also take the time to strap my shoulder up nowadays and get plenty of attention from the physio on this problem area.
What’s the worst injury you’ve seen someone suffer whilst playing rugby?
I’ve seen plenty of nasty injuries in my time but I think the more important aspect to bear in mind is the impressive drive and determination of players to come back stronger, more athletic and healthier.
Would you consider rest time and recovery an important part of your training regime?
It’s quite strange because rest time and recovery is actually considered to be part of the job nowadays rather than “days off”. We have to be as professional about “down days” because our strength and conditioning teams have identified just how important rest, recovery and rehabilitation can be.
Ideally, how many hours of sleep do you aim for a night? Do you usually reach your target?
I like to aim for 9 hours sleep a night. But it is 8 hours as a minimum. I would honestly say the more you can get the better, so on days when I’m particularly tired at 8pm I won’t stay up just for the sake of it. If I feel the need for 11 or 12 hours then I’ll go for it.
What impact does it have on you if you feel you’ve not had a good night’s sleep?
From a physical point of view, I don’t think that the body is able to produce the levels of performance needed to progress physically during training or perform on the field in a game. From a mental point of view, missing sleep probably leaves you less sharp and even a bit lethargic.
What kind of a sleeper are you? Perhaps a light and restless sleeper, or do you sleep like a log, as the saying goes?
Once I get started there is no stopping me!
With touring a lot, what’s a must have to ensure a good night’s sleep away from home?
I actually bring my Mammoth pillow with me when I’m away from home. I’ve taken it to Ireland camps in Dublin and even took it to the World Cup with me!
Do you have an optimum environment to sleep in – e.g. warm and cosy, cool and clean?
Cool and clean for me. I hate being warm in bed and, like most people, I love a freshly cleaned room with new bed sheets to sleep on.
What is your typical bedtime routine? Do you like to relax in bed with a DVD? Read a book or magazine? Or is it straight to bed and lights out after you’ve brushed your teeth?
I try not to mess around on tablets, laptops or phones too much in bed as I think it stops the body from starting to unwind with the eyes staring at these screens. Once I start getting ready for bed I just try to get my head down quickly.
How did you find out about Mammoth mattresses?
I first heard about Mammoth through the Irish Rugby Union Players Association. Mammoth is an official benefits provider to the IRUPA because of the associated health benefits of the brand, and it came highly recommended. I had heard good things from other players both at Ulster and Ireland and my old mattress was definitely on the way out.
Which Mammoth model did you purchase?
I’ve got a Mammoth Performance Pocket King Size and I have to say it’s really fantastic. Works a treat for me. As I say, the Mammoth pillows have also become an essential for me.
Darren bought his Mammoth Performance mattress from Dreams Boucher Road in Belfast.