Downey to win first cap

14/06/2013

@AdamRedmond reports from Toronto, Canada

 LES KISS yesterday made seven changes to the Ireland team that will face Canada on Saturday at BMO Field here in downtown Toronto.

 
The one new cap is Munster's James Downey, who starts at inside centre, and it marks the end of a very long struggle for the 32-year-old.
 
Downey is a Dubliner and although he excelled for Clontarf early in his career, the centre was bounced around from Leinster, Munster and Connacht before signing for Northampton Saints in 2007 after a spell in Italy with Calvisano.
 
At Northampton Downey became an integral figure in the Saints midfield where his hulking performances and off-loading game brought him to the attention of the media on both sides of the Irish channel who felt he should have been recognised by Ireland.
 
But as is the case with most foreign-based players, Downey was overlooked by the Irish management and felt that only be returning to Munster could he give it one last shot at representing his country. 
 
"I didn’t want to have any regrets and have it over my head that I wasn’t getting a chance because I was playing in England," Downey said at the team's hotel in the heart of Toronto yesterday. "I came home and challenged myself, to wear the red of Munster is brilliant and now I’m so lucky to wear the green of Ireland and I can’t wait. It was the right decision.
 
"Every professional player wants to play for their country, it is a top honour and you want to play at the highest level you can. That’s what I want to do, I wanted to wear the green of Ireland. Coming home was a big decision and it was the reason I came home."
 
However, Downey did admit that there were times when he felt that his chance of playing for Ireland had gone. "Yeah, a long time ago when I left Munster the first time, but that’s the way it is, that’s life, that’s sport. It has come full circle and I’ve come out the right end."
 
The other changes see Tommy O'Donnell get his first start for Ireland at openside while Felix Jones gets a run at full back in his first Test appearance since getting injured in the World Cup warm-up games in 2011.
 
Andrew Trimble will win his 50th cap on the wing, Kevin McLaughlin starts at blindside while Tom Court and Dan Tuohy also come into the pack.
 
Robbie Henshaw will start from the bench and behind the scenes it is known that the coaches would like to see him get a run in the outside centre channel, if the opportunity presents itself against Canada.
 
The other talking point around this selection is the decision to retain Ian Madigan and out half leaving Paddy Jackson to warm the bench again.
 
The line from Kiss is that Jackson has had great exposure in Test rugby during the last Six Nations and now is the time to try and get Madigan up to speed in terms of experience.
 
"[Jackson] stands in a very important position for us really," said Kiss. "On reflection, you look at this tour and the Six Nations and Paddy had a couple of chances to start matches in the Six Nations and Ian is starting a couple now and that experience will stand to both of them."
 
 
IRELAND (v Canada): F Jones; F McFadden, D Cave, J Downey, A Trimble; I Madigan, I Boss; T Court, R Strauss, M Ross; D Tuohy, D Toner; K McLaughlin, T O'Donnell, P O'Mahony.
Reps: S Cronin, D Kilcoyne, D Fitzpatrick, M McCarthy, C Henry, P Marshall, P Jackson, R Henshaw.
 
ENDS
 

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