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Cambridge winger Elias Caven makes positive start to life with RFU Championship new boys after successful Scotland stint

It was only three years ago that Cambridge winger Elias Caven felt as though he was at a crossroads.

Following spells with Bristol Bears, Gloucester, Hartpury University and Sumner in New Zealand, Caven was approaching his mid-20s and not enjoying his rugby as much as he once did.

It was decision time – put more focus into his career away from the pitch and treat the sport as somewhat of a hobby, or give it one last crack.

Elias Caven joined Cambridge during the summer. Picture: Keith Heppell
Elias Caven joined Cambridge during the summer. Picture: Keith Heppell

By Caven’s own admission he was torn between the two scenarios, but an invitation from north of the border proved to be too tempting and he has not looked back.

His stint with Ayrshire Bulls in the FOSROC Super Series was littered with success, both collectively and personally.

Caven helped the Burns County side to clinch two pieces of silverware, while his consistent try-scoring form caught the eye of United Rugby Championship outfit Glasgow Warriors.

Elias Caven had a successful spell in Scotland. Picture: Keith Heppell
Elias Caven had a successful spell in Scotland. Picture: Keith Heppell

And in keeping with his highly positive Scottish experience, Caven marked his competitive Warriors debut with the game’s opening try during a 35-24 defeat to South Africa’s Lions in February of this year.

“I had some really valuable experiences before going to Scotland. Bristol was great, Hartpury gave me some good exposure to the Championship and New Zealand was big for me,” said Caven, who turned 27 earlier this month.

“It’s a different style of rugby there. In the northern hemisphere it’s more about set-pieces and a kick and chase sort of game, whereas in New Zealand there is more of a skills focus. It was a big mindset change and I changed a few things in my game.

“But it was around the Covid lockdown that I started to not quite enjoy it as much. It wasn’t to do with any clubs or my performances particularly, I was just not enjoying the whole environment. It felt like I wasn’t going anywhere with it and I was stuck in a bit of a bubble.

“I got the call from Ayr at the right time and it ended up being the best decision. I had three very successful seasons and I enjoyed my rugby again. I felt like I was able to get back to the player I had been.

“I caught the eye of Glasgow and to make my URC debut against the Lions, that was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I played with some great players and it was an amazing experience.

“You see the type of rugby Scotland are playing at the moment. It’s enjoyable to watch and that’s how we played up there.”

With his love for rugby reinvigorated, this summer brought about a new chapter.

Elias Caven has ran in four tries in the Championship this season. Picture: Keith Heppell
Elias Caven has ran in four tries in the Championship this season. Picture: Keith Heppell

Fresh from being named in the Fans’ and Commentators’ Team of the Sprint for 2023, the Bristol-born speedster accepted the offer to return to England and the RFU Championship with Cambridge.

And Ayr’s loss has certainly been Cambridge’s gain. While his new side is still very much getting to grips with what is a debut season in the second tier of English rugby, Caven has hit the ground running.

During last weekend’s home defeat to his former club Hartpury he took his try tally to four – only Nottingham’s David Williams with five can boast a better record.

As such, Caven is already a key member of the playing squad at Ellgia Fields – a status that he has embraced.

He said: “I left Scotland on a good note. I achieved a lot, made my pro debut with Glasgow and it just felt like the right time to move on.

“I spoke to friends and family about it. I wanted to be a bit closer to home and back in the spotlight of the Championship.

“I liked what Cambridge had to say and the fact that they’re new to the Championship. I want to help drive standards and push on as much as I can on a personal level.

“I’ll always back my try-scoring ability and feel that I’m capable of scoring or creating in any match I play, especially if I get the opportunities.

“I feel confident and that’s why I’m comfortable with putting pressure on myself to help the team.”

But while the number 15 has adapted well to the Championship, it has not been so straightforward for Cambridge.

Three separate bonus points keep Richie Williams’ team off the foot of the table and ahead of basement side London Scottish, yet last term’s National League 1 champions are still awaiting their first victory at a higher level following four straight defeats.

There has already been some harsh lessons, but Caven is confident that Cambridge will go on to prove that they belong at the level.

“There’s definitely some really good confidence within the squad, even with the results not going our way at the moment,” he added.

“We’re not just here to make up the numbers and I think there is enough quality players in the squad for us to be competitive.

“Even in the Premiership Cup before the season started, we got stuck into teams and were in some of the games for 50 or 60 minutes.

“At the same time we’re not content with the start and we expect a lot. We want to win as many games as possible and be competitive in the ones we can’t win, picking up bonus points and things like that.

“We’ve got a block of games now against some fellow part-time teams that have gone up and stayed up. That will give us a good indication of where we are at right now.”

Rugby aside, Caven is also enjoying life in a new city. He is working as a sports coach at St Faith’s School on Trumpington Road and is eager to bring down his handicap at The Cambridgeshire Golf Club in Bar Hill.

“I feel like I’ve really settled into things at Cambridge,” he said. “The job is going great and it’s a nice city with lots of hidden sports. Where I lived in Ayrshire, it was a quiet beach village.

“It’s more lively in Cambridge, more things to do and I needed that.

“And hopefully I can get the handicap down. I was playing at seven when I was in Scotland but at the moment I’m playing at nine.”

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