james downey munster

How do you feel last season went?

Mixed feelings regarding last year. We’d a poor league run but had a good one in the Heineken so was a mixed bag.

If you could go back is there anything you might do differently?

Hindsight is a great thing I guess we’d try and be alot more consistent in the league games. It was hard to get a good run. Also a nice bounce of the ball against cleaning would be nice too!!

How have things been for you since moving back to Ireland?

I’ve loved being home. Really happy with my decision to move back. The lads were great when I got back and it was an easy bunch to get on with which always makes the transition easier.

What was the welcome like from the Munster fans?

They’re superb fans and I feel I’ve been welcomed with open arms. I think they see when you go out there and put your body on the line every time you step on the field and they appreciate that.

How’s pre-season going so far?

It’s quite tough to be honest. Hardest part of the year. That and injuries. But the lads have worked really hard and are just looking forward to playing games now.

What are your ambitions both personally and as a team for this season?

Hopefully to re-establish myself in the team again. There’s always lads biting at your heels. Also hopefully I can force my way into the national set up on a regular basis. As a team we want to win things so we’ve got to be pushing for honours on both fronts and do it consistently.

How tough do you think the Heineken Cup will be this season with the likes of Gloucester and Perpignan in your draw?

We’ve got Gloucester, Perpignan and Edinburgh . All tough sides there so we need a good start to get the momentum to take it onto the next few rounds. All are extremely tough games but we’ll be looking to come out on top.

Who do you think your main competition will be for the Pro 12 this year?

Leinster are always there. They set the precedent the last few years. Also Glasgow are becoming a force in Scotland.

How big of a blow do you think the retirement of Ronan O’Gara is for Munster?

I see it as a great opportunity for other lads to step up to be honest. Rog has obviously been a huge factor in Munsters success over the last decade but you move on and I think the lads have the ability to create their own legacies.

Are there any youngsters within the team you think we should be keeping an eye on this season?

I think Andrew Conway looks very sharp in training. He’ll be one to keep an eye on. Great pace.

We did a poll recently in which Thomond Park was voted the best stadium in the world, what do you think it is that makes it such a special place?

History has shown its a tough place for opposing teams to come to. That’s created by the intimidating atmosphere the fans create. There’s no better feeling than hearing the fans behind you. I love the atmosphere that’s created as well as the well documented history. Just a huge passion for the game and you can feel it.

What do you think has been behind Munster’s continued success in the Heineken Cup?

Team unity and belief is crucial in the success. A belief in oneself to strive and push further than the opposition and I think Munster players have that in abundance. This, mixed with the importance placed on it and the love affair Munster has with the tournament. The fans create this affair and the players just try to play it out the right way.

Having had a taste of playing for Ireland this summer against Canada are you keen to add more caps to your name?

Yes of course. I loved every minute of it and it has just given me an appetite to get more. So playing well for Munster can hopefully put me in the window and that’s all I can do. Then it’s up to the powers that be.

A bit thank you to James for taking the time out to speak to us. All the best to him and Munster for the season ahead.