Cave says away improvement can reignite Ulster Pro12 season

Darren Cave is tackled by his fellow Ireland centre Gordon D'Arcy at the RDS last weekend
Darren Cave said Ulster's defeat by Leinster was one of the most physical games of his career

Darren Cave insists that Ulster remain well positioned to challenge for the Pro12 title but admits that their away form must improve.

Despite Saturday's defeat by Leinster, Ulster are only five points adrift of leaders, the Ospreys, after the top four all lost last weekend.

"Everything is still to play for," added the Ireland centre ahead of Sunday's away game against Treviso.

"But on the road this year, we've only won once and that is not good enough."

The Ireland centre still had the war wounds on Tuesday from Saturday's defeat at the RDS as he sported a black right eye arising from "as physical a game as I have ever been involved in".

"I copped a couple of big hits in the game but when you have a disappointing result, the best thing is to not mess around and get back on the horse.

Cave upbeat on Ulster title challenge

"The body is a bit rattled as are a few other guys but we're looking forward to playing again on Sunday."

With qualification for the knockout stages of the European Champions Cup now surely beyond Ulster after three defeats in their opening four Pool 3 games, Cave expects Neil Doak to announce a strong line-up for Sunday's game.

The Ulster coach will also surely be mindful that his under-strength side were beaten by Zebre in Parma in late September - a reverse that is now beginning to look rather expensive.

"The games over there are always tight. Zebre beat us in Italy earlier this season and Treviso have drawn and won here [at Kingspan Stadium] in recent years.

"But if we win this weekend who knows where we might be in the table come Sunday night.

"If you had said to me at the start of the year that we would win the league and we wouldn't make the quarter-finals in Europe, I would have taken that.

"We're in fifth place now but we're only five points off the top of the table."