The Declan Kidney era began at a damp and blustery Thomond Park as Ireland looked to open their autumn series with a convincing victory over Canada.
Brian O’Driscoll led out his country for the 49th time and formed a new centre partnership with Leinster team-mate Luke Fitzgerald, while 21-year-old debutant Keith Earls took his place at full-back.
Surprise selection Tony Buckley started at tighthead prop against a Canucks front row featuring Glasgow Warriors’ Kevin Tkachuk, with the visitors’ full-back James Pritchard providing menace with the boot.
It took Ireland less than three minutes to score their first try for the new head coach.
Ronan O’Gara’s high kick was spilled by Justin Mensah-Coker in his own 22, and the ball was spread wide through the hands of O’Driscoll and Fitzgerald to the on-rushing Earls – who crashed over to make it the perfect start to his international career. O’Gara kicked the extras.
In the eighth minute, Canada were penalised for hands in the ruck – and O’Gara stroked the ball between the posts from 30 metres to make it 10-0.
Rob Kearney then scored a controversial second try in the 13th minute, after latching on to another kick that the Canucks failed to deal with.
Canada winger Ciaran Hearn appeared to touch the bobbling ball down first under pressure from the Ireland wing, but the score was awarded by the TV referee.
O’Gara brilliantly slotted the two points from wide on the left as the rain started to fall once more, soon becoming torrential.
Latest score: Ireland 24 Canada 0