Video: 'I haven’t supported a Munster team he wasn’t involved in' - Peter O'Mahony overcome during Munster press conference
Munster’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus and captain Peter O’Mahony have spoken for the first time about the tragic death of Anthony Foley at an emotional press conference at the province's High Performance Centre at the University of Limerick.
The duo both paid tribute to the former captain and head coach who passed away on the eve of their game against Racing 92 in Paris on Sunday.
The South African supremo confirmed that the province’s European Champions Cup game against Glasgow Warriors will go ahead on Saturday and spoke of his belief that it was the right thing to do.
The squad trained at UL this morning and will continue their preparations around the funeral arrangements in the coming days.
Tournament organisers EPCR also issued a statement confirming that the game will go ahead and said the teams for the match would be named at the later time of 3pm on Friday to allow for the squad and management to attend funeral earlier that day.
It is expected that the fans of Munster will pack out Thomond Park to pay tribute to their former captain and No 8, with more than 17,000 tickets sold already for the 1pm kick-off.
“It’s been difficult for everybody, but the way we handle it personally for us is so inferior to the way it must be to his family and loved ones and everyone really, really close to him,” Erasmus said.
"For us, we’re finding it tough, but there’s other people very close to him that we must be thinking of at this time.
“He was a good friend, first of all. You get to know him, I know that there’s people who knew him longer than me but he was a friend who wore his heart on his sleeve, you knew exactly what his thoughts were.
“You didn't have to think about a lot of nonsense when to say about him, because you knew exactly where you stood with him.
"He was someone who cared about every single friend of his, he would do anything for his friends."
On the Glasgow game, Erasmus said the province had no qualms about going ahead.
"One's life is greater than any sport or sporting occasion, however Thomond Park held a special place in Axel's heart, and as difficult as it will be to play the next game, no matter the time, opposition and venue, we have an opportunity to play there this Saturday; that is something that is hugely important to all of us and cannot be easily dismissed,” he said.
"Playing in Thomond Park further ties us to his memory and will be a chance for all, including our supporters and the community, to feel that connection and closeness to him at this time.
“You know, talking to a lot people who know him better than I and Peter would back me up on this and his friends who know him closely would.. he would never want us to say the game is secondary. That’s not the man he was.
“But it will be, it's all be about Anthony now, for this weekend and it will be for a long time raw and about Anthony.”
An emotional O’Mahony found it difficult to speak as he paid tribute to a Munster hero.
“My first game that he coached me at Munster was an U-20 game at Thomond Park, we won it 3-0 and that suited Axel as good as if we’d won it by 70. He wanted to win for Munster at any cost,” he recalled.
“I’m not going to do him justice here, personally he meant a huge amount. He’s been there, I haven’t supported a Munster team that he wasn’t involved in. The amount he’s given the club, it can’t be calculated.
“I was lucky he was in my position as well, the knowledge he could give to me. At times it was frustrating because he was such a good footballer, he found it difficult to understand that we couldn’t’ see what he could.
“The amount we’ve lost now that he’s gone, the rugby knowledge; the man, the coach and the friend, it’s huge.”