'Heartbroken…We have lost an incredible man': Rugby world mourns Munster great Anthony Foley

Books of condolence will open today in memory of Munster rugby head coach Anthony Foley.

The 42-year-old coach died suddenly in his team hotel in Paris on Sunday. He was in Paris with the Munster Rugby team who were to play Racing 92.

He is survived by his wife Olive, their two sons Tony and Dan and extended family and friends.

His father Brendan, who was with the Munster party in Paris at the time of his son's death, was a lock forward who won 11 Ireland caps and was part of the Munster team which beat the All Blacks in 1978.

Consular assistance is being provided to the Foley family as the process to repatriate Anthony's body gets underway today.

From player to coach

Anthony Foley was a former Munster and Ireland player. He captained Ireland three times during a 62-cap career, and he skippered Munster to Heineken Cup glory in 2006, with victory over Biarritz in Cardiff.

From 2000 to 2005 he was a key figure in the Ireland team as a bulldozing but talented number eight.

Foley also holds the Munster record for the most Heineken Cup appearances (85) and was captain when the province became European champions for the first time in 2006.

Back-rower Foley made a try-scoring international debut against England in the 1995 Six Nations, but it was from 2000 to 2005 that he became established as a key figure in Ireland’s team.

He made just one substitute appearance at the 1995 World Cup before starting two matches at the 2003 tournament, and last featured in international rugby during the 2005 Six Nations.

He retired in 2008, leaving Munster as the club’s most-capped player with 194 appearances for the provincial side.

The former Ireland number 8 was head coach of Munster from 2014 to the end of last season.

Foley stayed with the province in a coaching capacity when Rassie Erasmus joined the province as Director of Rugby.

'The embodiment of Munster Rugby'

Among those to pay tribute to the 62-times capped back rower were Ireland President Michael D Higgins and Brian O'Driscoll, the former British and Irish Lions centre who was Foley's Ireland captain.

"Can't quite believe it. So incredibly sad. My thoughts are with Olive, his boys & and his extended family," O'Driscoll wrote on his Twitter account.

President Higgins, who is patron of the Irish Rugby Football Union, said in a statement: "It is with great sadness that I heard of the sudden death of Anthony Foley, the Munster rugby team's head coach and one of the great figures of Irish sport in the modern era.

"Anthony Foley excelled from a young age and made a huge contribution to the successes of Munster and Ireland, in both his playing and coaching careers.

"He was regarded with great respect and deep affection not just among the Munster rugby fans but by all those interested in Irish sports and those with whom they interacted abroad."

"We are shocked and deeply saddened by today's news and the sudden passing of a Munster Rugby great, our head coach, former player, colleague and friend Anthony Foley," Munster chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald said in a statement.

"Anthony was the embodiment of Munster Rugby and dedicated his life to the game he loved.

"From St Munchin's (College) to Shannon, Munster and then Ireland, Anthony was a true rugby great."

The IRFU said on their official website: "The IRFU and Munster Rugby pass on our deepest sympathies to all of Anthony's family and friends and ask for privacy for the family at this sad time.

"Munster Rugby thank Racing 92, EPCR, broadcasters and partners, and the many fans who travelled to Paris for their understanding and support at this time."

The Rugby Football Union, Scottish Rugby Union and Welsh Rugby Union all paid tribute to Foley on their Twitter accounts.

Former New Zealand outside-half Dan Carter, Test rugby's highest points scorer, wrote on his Twitter account: "Still can't believe the tragic news! Thoughts to Anthony Foleys family, friends & @Munsterrugby boys."

England's 2003 World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward said: "Shocked & so sad to hear about death of Anthony Foley. A true legend & a man who had total respect of teammates & opposition @Munsterrugby."

As a mark of respect the seven local authorities in Munster (Clare County Council; Cork City Council; Cork County Council; Kerry County Council; Limerick City and County Council; Tipperary County Council; Waterford City and County Council) will open books of condolence at 12pm today.

The Irish flag will also be flown at half mast outside the local authority offices. Dublin's GPO and the University of Limerick are also opening Books of Condolence.

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