Wednesday 26 October 2016

Rugby mourns the shock death of Munster coach Anthony Foley

Published 16/10/2016 | 14:11

Anthony Foley has been described as being among the great figures of modern Irish sport following his death at the age of 42.

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The Munster head coach died at the team hotel in Paris, where the Irish province were due to play Racing 92 in a European Champions Cup tie on Sunday.

The game was duly postponed as a mark of respect.

Among those to pay tribute to the 62-times capped back rower were Ireland President Michael D Higgins and Brian O'Driscoll, the former British and Irish Lions centre who was Foley's Ireland captain.

"Can't quite believe it. So incredibly sad. My thoughts are with Olive, his boys & and his extended family," O'Driscoll wrote on his Twitter account.

President Higgins, who is patron of the Irish Rugby Football Union, said in a statement: "It is with great sadness that I heard of the sudden death of Anthony Foley, the Munster rugby team's head coach and one of the great figures of Irish sport in the modern era.

"Anthony Foley excelled from a young age and made a huge contribution to the successes of Munster and Ireland, in both his playing and coaching careers.

"He was regarded with great respect and deep affection not just among the Munster rugby fans but by all those interested in Irish sports and those with whom they interacted abroad."

Foley, who had been in charge at Munster since July 2014, represented Ireland between 1995 and 2005.

Back-rower Foley made a try-scoring international debut against England in the 1995 Six Nations and was renowned for his physical style of play.

But it was from 2000 to 2005 that he became established as a key figure in Ireland's team, going on to win 62 caps and wear the armband three times.

He also holds the Munster record for the most Heineken Cup appearances (85) and was captain when the province became European champions for the first time in 2006.

Foley retired from playing in 2008 and later took up defensive and forward coaching roles at Munster before being appointed head coach.

"We are shocked and deeply saddened by today's news and the sudden passing of a Munster Rugby great, our head coach, former player, colleague and friend Anthony Foley," Munster chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald said in a statement.

"Anthony was the embodiment of Munster Rugby and dedicated his life to the game he loved.

"From St Munchin's (College) to Shannon, Munster and then Ireland, Anthony was a true rugby great."

A minute's silence was held before the European Champions Cup tie between Exeter Chiefs and Clermont Auvergne on Sunday in honour of Foley.

And the world of rugby union was quick to pay tribute on Twitter to the former back rower who played at two World Cups and captained Ireland three times during his career.

England's 2003 World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward said: "Shocked & so sad to hear about death of Anthony Foley. A true legend & a man who had total respect of teammates & opposition @Munsterrugby."

Former Australia outside-half Michael Lynagh said: "Just received the news of Anthony Foley passing. I am shocked and saddened. He was a great rugby man; but most importantly a great person.

And former Wales captain Ryan Jones added: "Such sad sad news of @Munsterrugby 's Anthony Foley passing away - a top top man on and off the field."

The Rugby Football Union, Scottish Rugby Union and Welsh Rugby Union all paid tribute to Foley on their Twitter accounts.

And the IRFU said on their official website: "The IRFU and Munster Rugby pass on our deepest sympathies to all of Anthony's family and friends and ask for privacy for the family at this sad time.

"As a mark of respect to Anthony and his family and and to support players, management and staff, Muster Rugby have requested that today's European Champions Cup match against Racing 92 be rescheduled.

"Munster Rugby thank Racing 92, EPCR, broadcasters and partners, and the many fans who travelled to Paris for their understanding and support at this time."

Foley is survived by his wife Olive and two sons Tony and Dan.

His father Brendan, who was with the Munster party in Paris at the time of his son's death, was a lock forward who won 11 Ireland caps and was part of the Munster team which beat the All Blacks in 1978.

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