Belated first cap leaves Downey in green heaven
JAMES DOWNEY will become an Ireland player at the age of 32 tomorrow after being named in the team to face Canada.
The Munster centre's inclusion in place of Stuart Olding is one of seven changes in Les Kiss' team from the victory over the USA last weekend.
Felix Jones comes in for Robbie Henshaw, who drops to the bench, while Andrew Trimble wins his 50th cap on the wing and Tom Court, Dan Tuohy, Kevin McLaughlin and Tommy O'Donnell are named in the pack.
Ian Madigan has held off the claim of Paddy Jackson and starts at out-half alongside Isaac Boss, while Richardt Strauss and Devin Toner are over the stomach bug that kept them out of training and will start.
In total, 11 players came down with sickness during the early part of the week, but the entire squad trained at Canada College yesterday morning.
Kiss' decision to pick Madigan again is further evidence of the 24-year-old's move up the pecking order. After a good showing against the States, he will want to kick on and find some space against Canada.
The interim coach believes that Madigan and Jackson have done well this season. "Jonny (Sexton) is heading overseas and you'd hope they will get a lot of time in the No 10 jersey with the provinces and, hopefully, the opportunities they've had in the Six Nations and on this tour, starting Test matches or coming off the bench, will serve them well and also serve Irish rugby well," Kiss said.
"It's been a good process and I think both players have stood up well."
Downey, meanwhile, cut a delighted figure at the team announcement as he contemplated finally making it into a green jersey after rebuilding his career from the bottom when he was released by Munster in 2006.
He moved to Italian side Calvisano and secured a move to Northampton Saints after they dropped to the second tier of English rugby. The Dubliner won promotion with the English club and was a central figure as they reached the Heineken Cup final in 2011, before moving back to Munster last summer after five seasons.
Now he gets his reward, becoming the sixth oldest Ireland debutant ever in the process. "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," he said. "I wanted to wear the green of Ireland... it was the reason I came home."
IRELAND – F Jones (Munster); F McFadden (Leinster), D Cave (Ulster), J Downey (Munster), A Trimble (Ulster); I Madigan (Leinster), I Boss (Leinster); T Court (Ulster), R Strauss (Leinster), M Ross (Leinster); D Tuohy (Ulster), D Toner (Leinster); K McLaughlin (Leinster), T O'Donnell (Munster), P O'Mahony (capt, Munster). Reps: S Cronin (Leinster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), D Fitzpatrick (Ulster), M McCarthy (Connacht), C Henry (Ulster), P Marshall (Ulster), P Jackson (Ulster), R Henshaw (Connacht).