Monday 19 March 2018

Anthony Foley welcomes Felix Jones' voice as budding sports psychologist

Felix Jones in training last season
Felix Jones in training last season
Anthony Foley (SPORTSFILE)
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

By his own admission, Anthony Foley is sleeping easier at night this week but there remains a stark realisation that Munster's ailments haven't been cured at once with last Saturday's win over Stade Francais.

Andy Farrell has his feet under the table in his new advisory role, while a more familiar face was again spotted on the training paddock yesterday.

Felix Jones may have had his career cruelly cut short when he was forced to retire last October with a neck injury but the influential former full-back hasn't strayed too far.

The 28-year-old is undertaking a Master's in Sports Psychology at the University of Limerick and, as Foley pointed out, now is as good a time as any for Jones to be learning how to deal with teams' difficult periods, alongside Tadhg MacIntyre, Munster's sports psychologist. "It's a good period of time for Felix to be in, around the group if that's your goal because there's a lot of stresses and strains and pressures in that area at the moment," Foley said.

"So it's a good time, he's a good lad as well in terms of having a voice and he's still one of the lads to be honest with you. It feels like he never left. You go in there (analysis room) most days and he's sitting on the computer. He's still one of us and he's never gone away."

Foley admitted that he has "happy" with how contract negations were going with Conor Murray, Simon Zebo and Keith Earls, while James Cronin is also back in full training which is a timely boost for him personally ahead of today's Six Nations squad announcement.

The mood may have lightened down south for now, but the prognosis of Tyler Bleyendaal's troublesome quad injury, that will see him spend the next 12 weeks on the sidelines, went some way to dampening that.

Bleyendaal captained New Zealand to the 2010 U-20 World Cup but he arrived in Ireland in January last year on the back of suffering a serious neck injury and has made just three starts while twice featuring off the bench.

It's been a testing time for Munster, given the hefty investment they have made in the 25-year-old but one imagines how much more difficult it must be for the player who arrived on these shores with big ambitions of becoming Munster's first-choice out-half.

"The injury's a tendon in his quad and we've been investigating it for a period of time," Foley explained.

"The only sensation he would feel while he's running is tightness. Tightness for a player isn't the worst thing in the world but it kept going at him and it turns out that was the tendon tearing the whole time.

"He could run, the could train, he could kick the ball out of hand, he could do everything but the one thing that kept catching him was kicking off the tee.

"It came to a point where we sat down with a couple of specialists and the best advice they could give him was to give him 12 weeks to get it right."

Although Bleyendaal does not require surgery, the hope is that complete rest for the next three months will see him back before the end of the season.

"It's hard, both physically and mentally, because he's here to play rugby. He's come from the other side of the world and he's not here to sit on the couch," Foley stressed.

Munster can still mathematically qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions Cup and although it is an utterly slim hope, they will travel to Treviso on Sunday looking to give themselves every chance of doing so.

"It's nice to see the boys get just reward for the effort they have put in over the last number of weeks, where they haven't any credit because you don't get the result," Foley maintained.

"We want to get as many points as we can, get as high up the table.

"Everything outside of that is outside our control, we can't really affect any other results, you know losing at home to Leicester takes that out of your hands and not picking up any losing bonus points in all three fixtures makes you realise how important they are, even if you lose a game that you stay within seven (points).

"We know we can get to 15 (points), but whether 15 is enough I doubt it. We'd have a fair idea on Sunday morning what's required."

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