Tuesday 6 December 2016

Tony Ward: It is a tragic, tragic afternoon for sport - I just can't take it in because it doesn't make any sense

Published 16/10/2016 | 15:30

Tony Ward paid an emotional tribute to Anthony Foley this afternoon just hours after it was confirmed that the Irish rugby legend passed away suddenly at just 42.

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The Munster head coach was found dead in the team hotel ahead of the team's Champions Cup opener against Racing 92, sending the sport of rugby into mourning.

Ward appeared on RTE Radio One to share his memories of Foley, and was struggling to process the news.

"I am just reeling," he said.

"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.

"I am finding it so hard to get around it because I am just lost for words, I even lost my train of thought right now. It is a tragic, tragic afternoon for sport. How his wife and children are dealing with this and will deal with this, I just don't know. It is a very, very sad day."

Ward also looked back on the attributes that made Foley not only a great player on the field, but a great person off it.

"His ability to read the game, whether he had the ball at his feet or was organising his back row defence, was just phenomenal," he said.

"It was no shock to any of us that he went into coaching. Eddie (O'Sullivan) said about his great dignity on the field, I would also say that he had great dignity off the field where he had a tough two years when he was head coach and last his way somewhat settling into what was a very difficult role."

Foley made his Munster debut in 1995 and played 202 times for the province before retiring in 2008. Famously, Foley was the captain when Munster ended their Heineken Cup drought with a victory over Biarritz in 2006 final.

He also won 62 caps for Ireland between 1995 and 2005.

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