Thursday 8 December 2016

Anthony Foley: Hopefully we'll be challenging for silverware from now on

Published 07/05/2016 | 18:10

CJ Stander, Munster, is congratulated by Michelle D'Arcy, Munster rugby supporters choir. Guinness PRO12, Round 22, Munster v Scarlets. Thomond Park, Limerick. Picture credit: Eóin Noonan / SPORTSFILE
CJ Stander, Munster, is congratulated by Michelle D'Arcy, Munster rugby supporters choir. Guinness PRO12, Round 22, Munster v Scarlets. Thomond Park, Limerick. Picture credit: Eóin Noonan / SPORTSFILE

Anthony Foley breathed a sigh of relief after his last duties as Munster head coach ensured his side guaranteed Champions Cup rugby for next season after a 34-15, five-try victory against the Scarlets.

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The former Heineken Cup winning captain will take a back seat next season due to the imminent arrival of Rassie Erasmus but he did at least ensure his side ended a difficult season by ensuring his side maintain their unbroken status amongst the European elite.

"There's a lot of relief in the dressing-room," said Foley.

"You saw a lot of nerves out there, there was a lot of indecision and young guys who were carrying the weight of having to qualify for the Champions Cup.

"Hopefully, the kind of experience the have gained in the last couple of weeks will help them in the future when hopefully they can be challenging for trophies instead of just trying to qualify for the Champions Cup.

"We have been missing a lot of players, Mark Chisholm, Peter O'Mahony, BJ Botha, Denis Hurley Felix Jones, there are five players straight off who weren't with us and it is understandable that were lacking players. But the guys who came in did really well for us.

"We did really well in this game at half-time to be 14-12 ahead, it gave us some breathing space which was vital because we didn't hold on to the ball that well in the first-half.

"It is always better to be in possession because then your actions dictate the game. They have a high tempo game but we executed on the back of a couple of turnovers which was a big help."

CJ Stander is eyeing a brighter future for Munster after they secured their Champions Cup status for next season after a comprehensive 34-15 victory or Munster.

"A lot of players have stepped for us this season and that will help us down the road when this team gets back into semi-finals and finals," said the IRUPA Players' Player of the Year.

"There will always be nerves, they controlled it well. You are playing for Champions Cup rugby and the senior players helped that as well.

"It is disappointing to be playing for sixth place but there have been a lot of learnings. There will be new people coming in and that is exciting. None of the boys have met him but it will be great for us, he will meet something different.

'We had a lot of players this week who didn't train for whatever reason but it showed our character that we managed to come through this game.

Scarlets missed out on a play-off after Ulster's victory in Ospreys saw them leap-frog their Welsh rivals to clinch the last remaining semi-final spot.

We put in a solid start and that is all you can ask, it has been a long season and you don't often get a 51 minute half of rugby," said Scarlets' head coach Wayne Pivac.

"We have improved since last season, won more away from home and hopefully we can build.

"The top four as always going to be a tight race and there were nine teams probably challenging for the play-offs. It was a big effort for us and hopefully we can push on from here.

"We were doing well at 14-12 but the game really got away from us in the final quarter really. But I can't ask for anything else from the boys today."

Jake Ball said: "We threw the kitchen sink at Munster today and it is really disappointing to come away with nothing. The home defeats to Cardiff and Glasgow really cost us.

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