Monday 27 January 2020

'He was destined to a coach Ireland' - Eddie O'Sulivan on the late Anthony Foley

Anthony Foley passed away in France
Anthony Foley passed away in France Newsdesk Newsdesk

Former Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan has paid tribute to the late Anthony 'Axel' Foley who died yesterday of yesterday in Paris of a suspected heart attack at just 42 years of age.

The Irish rugby community has been united in mourning since the tragic news broke yesterday afternoon.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast this morning, O'Sullivan, who gave Foley the majority of his 62 international caps, praised the Clare native's rugby intelligence and spoke about how Ireland had lost a future coach.

During O'Sullivan's reign, Foley was a key figure at number eight and was regarded as one of the best back rowers in the game.

"When I got involved with Ireland around 2000, at that stage he had really set out his stall as a Munster player," he said.

"At the time he was brought back in 2000, there was a lot of changes in the team and from then  until he retired about five or six years later he was a constant in the Irish squad.

"Throughout his time there he was a leader. On and off the field, he had an extraordinary ability to talk to players and meet players.

"I suppose the most telling thing about Anthony when you saw him play was his rugby intelligence. He had a phenomenal understanding of the game.

"Just one of those guys that knew exactly what was important in any moment during the game whether you were under your posts after giving up a try and trying to get back into a game or trying to close out a game with five minutes to go. He always knew what ws the right thing to do on the field and as a coach that was phenomenally important that you had this guy on the field that was thinking like a coach even though he was a player.

"It was no surprise that once he finished playing rugby that he was always destined to be a coach and I think that it's dreadful as well that Anthony would have gone back to coach Munster as the boss again in time and no doubt he would have gone on to coach Ireland.

"He has a tremendous rugby brain and intelligence, something you can't really coach.

"He was the quiet leader, whether it was at training or in the changing room. Leadership is about knowing what to say and when to say it when you are under pressure and he would speak at the right time to a team mate, he would speak at the right time at half time in the changing room or on the field and a player like him, players look to him when things are tough in a game. They look to Anthony to guide the team back on track.

"Anthony, even under extreme pressure on the big day, always came through and you saw that time and time agains whether it was for Munster or Ireland."

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