Thursday 30 March 2017

Foley's impact extends way beyond rugby - Townsend

Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend Photo: Getty
Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend Photo: Getty
David Kelly

David Kelly

Gregor Townsend and Anthony Foley were virtually of an age and had encountered each other many, many times upon fields of green.

Now, they will battle no more.

When the Scotland incoming coach brings his Glasgow wide to Limerick on Saturday, there will be no familiar handshake or pat on the back to greet him. Hard to understand.

"I'm 43," says Townsend. "I imagine Anthony would have been 43 this year" - in actual fact, Foley would have turned 43 on Sunday week - "because we played as a schoolboy level against each other.

"I didn't win a game at schoolboy level in two years. It just makes it more of a shock, we're virtually the same age."

They played against each other in Europe too; Foley nearly always trumping Townsend's Castres, as well as in the Six Nations. Enemies on the field; rugby brothers off it. The shock of it all still being absorbed.

"I was away with my family," he recalls. "It started to appear on Twitter and I thought someone had hacked an account. It seemed like a sick joke, it just didn't make sense.

"You can tell from the response across the world, this just doesn't seem right. There's a guy who is young, the life and soul of a party, always upbeat and chatty.

Appreciate

"It just seems not right. It is a huge shock for the people of Munster and Ireland. It has gone beyond rugby. This is an event that all sport is shocked by.

"Maybe you don't appreciate people's lives until they've gone, but you must recognise what he did for Munster to become one of the best teams in Europe, to have a huge stadium and a legacy.

"He was one of the most important figures in Irish rugby over the last couple of decades.

"We got on really well as players and especially as coaches. We have had wins and defeats and we've had to go through similar experiences with injuries.

"He was really good at sharing things with you - players he liked and things like that. I always look forward to catching up with them and various events. I was looking forward to this week.

"I think it's a reminder for us all that we should appreciate what we've got and live our lives to the fullest."

Glasgow will travel to Dublin this afternoon and, like Munster, will not name their line-up until the later time of 3pm tomorrow afternoon after Foley's burial takes place. Townsend is not sure whether he or any representatives from his club feel it may be appropriate to attend.

"We will see. The details said that it is a small village, private. There will be a big demand from people who want to attend that - friends, family, people who knew him well. But if we can be involved in some way we will."

Irish Independent

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