Monday 11 December 2017

Foley would be proud of Munster Euro run - Eramsus

Munster Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Munster Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Munster return to the Aviva Stadium for the first time in six months to play in the semi-finals of a Champions Cup but will do so without the man who perhaps believed more than anyone that they could get this far.

A week before Munster began this season's European campaign, they lost narrowly to Leinster on this ground but Anthony Foley shared with the losing dressing-room his conviction that his beloved team were on the verge of creating something special.

Foley's sudden tragic death just a week later left so many bereft, including the squad who would subsequently prove his conviction with a sequence of deeds that have brought them to a record 12th semi-final against reigning champions Saracens.

Foley had been involved in all previous 11 penultimate stages and lifted the famous trophy as captain in 2006, but had longed to return there as a coach with the side, having missed out in the last two seasons.

His spirit, as it has all season, will follow his club's dream of reaching another final this afternoon as a red wave of passionate support fills the 50,000 capacity in Dublin 4.

Conor Murray again misses out for Munster, with Erasmus repudiating Lions coach Warren Gatland's suggestion that the scrum-half had suffered a further setback to his shoulder stinger injury.

"The last game we played here, where Anthony was in charge of the team, he was the head coach, it was the last time we were in that changing room, he was with us in the changing room and then the next week he passed away," recalled Erasmus last night.

Conversations "I just know the private conversations we had after that loss against Leinster, I know what I would tell him now and I know he would smile but it wouldn't be something I could say.

"I just think he would be really proud, because the guys carry him in our hearts every day. We talk about him, he's part of our daily training and I think that would put a smile on his face and hopefully we can make him proud tomorrow."

Ian Keatley, nominally the replacement out-half, will also cover nine from the bench which Erasmus admits is a "risk".

Leinster also face a semi-final this weekend, away to Clermont in Lyon tomorrow, and were also hit with an injury blow with the late withdrawal of back-row and Lions call-up Seán O'Brien with a tight hamstring.

Speaking of Murray, Erasmus added: "There was no setback, the setback is that it is taking so long. No specific incident happened.

"I guess he meant the setback is that in the beginning it was one week, whereas now we are in week six or seven already. The setback is the time it is taking to heal. For me it is impossible to say when he will be back. Obviously we are taking a bit of a risk with Ian Keatley on the bench."

Irish Independent

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