Friday 28 October 2016

Heartfelt tributes are paid to Ireland and Munster rugby legend

Published 17/10/2016 | 02:30

Brent Pope said Foley was ‘a great thinker’ about rugby
Brent Pope said Foley was ‘a great thinker’ about rugby

Figures from the world of sport, nationally and internationally, have been paying tribute to Munster rugby coach Anthony Foley, after news of his sudden death broke yesterday.

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Foley (42) passed away in Paris ahead of a planned Champions Cup fixture between his Munster side and Racing 92. The game was called off as a mark of respect, and will be rescheduled.

Rugby commentator and former player Brent Pope was a friend of Foley.

He told the Irish Independent about his shock and sadness at hearing the news.

"He was a very quiet kind of guy. He was just one of these guys who would use less words than more to get his point across," he said.

"Off the field, he was more likely to listen than to talk, but that's a compliment to him."

He said Foley was "always a great thinker" about the game of rugby.

"I'm still in shock. When you perceive a young man at that age to be in good health and to have played a sport for his life, and then to suddenly drop dead?

"You think 'God, he's gone too soon'. You can't even fathom that this guy, who's an icon of Munster rugby and Irish rugby, has passed away at the age of 42."

The news of Foley's death has reverberated around the world of rugby. Pope pointed to a message sent by former French international Sébastien Chabal.

"Sad news to learn the coach and great former Irish number 8, Anthony Foley, has left us," Chabal wrote on Twitter.

Former Ireland player Donal Lenihan said that Foley "epitomises what Munster rugby is all about".

"It's absolutely shocking. There's nothing but shock in the air," he said.

"You think first of his wife and kids. It will take a long time to recover from this," he said, speaking on RTE Radio 1.

Brian O'Driscoll also took to social media to pay tribute to Foley.

"Can't quite believe it. So incredibly sad. My thoughts are with Olive, his boys and his extended family," he said.

Shane Byrne, former hooker for Ireland, said: "As a player, he had this innate ability to make the right decision at the right time."

A statement from Munster Rugby was released yesterday, and it said: "It is with great sadness that we bid farewell to our coach, former captain, colleague and friend today. Rest in peace, Anthony Foley."

Tony Ward, former Ireland fly-half, said he was still reeling from the shocking news.

"I just can't take it in, because it is against the natural order of things. I am just frozen on the spot and I am just stuck for words because it doesn't make any sense at all," he said.

Former Irish head coach Eddie O'Sullivan added: "Leadership is a special skill. It's about knowing what to say and the time to say it. Anthony got that."

Irish Independent

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