Name: James Downey
Clubs: Leinster, Connacht, Munster, Calvisano, Northampton Saints, Munster, Glasgow Warriors, Wasps
National: Ireland (1 Cap)
How has the season been going and do you still have any connections to the grassroots game?
The season has been going well from a Wasps point of view as we are in European quarter finals as well as going well the Aviva Premiership. A great achievement for the club would be to get into the semi finals and from there one never knows!! It’s the same with Europe, they are all one off games so anyone on their day can produce a performance. Very exciting times for the club.
I’ve tried to maintain a connection with my Irish Club, Clontarf RFC and when back in Ireland I always head down to the club when I can. Its a great club and the local community really get behind it.
Whilst playing at Glasgow, I was coaching a team up there, Glasgow Academicals. That was good fun to get back to people playing the game for the love of it, whilst working in their normal jobs from day to day.
Growing up, was rugby your main focus when it came to sport or were there other games you preferred?
Not at all. Again, in Ireland it was mainly GAA, so gaelic football and hurling were the sports that you grew up with. I played both from under 7’s/8s I would say and only got involved in rugby when I moved school at 10 years old. There are plenty of other sports that can have a positive effect on rugby and gaelic football is one such sport as there are transferable skills which you can always bring across from other sports to help with rugby.
Which grassroots clubs were you a member of and do you still stay in touch with the club?
Clontarf, Dublin is my club and have played there since I started rugby. Grew up playing with a lot of my pals so makes it much more fun and enjoyable to get the wins. Yes, I always visit the club when I get back and presented my Irish jersey to the club which is hung up there!
What are your memories of those clubs?
Some of my best memories come from that club and when I was young . Going away to play in all the ‘blitzes’ that used to occur around the country. I loved playing in a few matches per day rather than just the one game a day, although not sure I could last more than one now!
The camaraderie and friendships that I made there really stand out and you can go back to the club and see the same people which can be a great thing and again shows how much the local community pulled in behind the club. I guess its the sense of family is the greatest memory and of course winning games with your mates.
What is that stands out for you as some of the aspects of amateur rugby that make it such a passion for so many?
I think it goes back to what I said previously, playing with your pals that you grew up with and just the love of the game. The great thing about rugby is you beat each other up for the 80 minutes and then have a beer in the bar after and I think that stands out in amateur as well as pro rugby. It's just where people learn about life skills and not just rugby skills. Amateur rugby was where it all started and you know the people who are running it are passionate as they are volunteers which means so much.
Will you go back and play grassroots rugby again one day?
Well...I would love to play again with he lads that I started with, maybe for a year or so. Would have to get a few of them out of retirement to make that one happen. But would like to do something with the club as they were the ones that set me up and helped provide me with the necessary skills to go forward and progress into a professional. So I feel I need to give something back in return for everything that it gave me.
What do you think of the service that E4R provides clubs, do you think it is needed?
I most certainly do, the problems that are now created with everyone watching professional rugby has meant that the Amateur game has suffered and this should not be the case. Grassroots clubs need to thrive and develop and keep on moving forward. Clubs really need increased revenue as well as reduced costs which E4R can help provide. It is where all players learn their craft and will continue to do so. I love what E4R are doing and we need to get behind it and get clubs aware of it and help generate awareness, as grassroots is where it begins, for everyone!
Thanks to James for taking the time to answer out questions!