Munster boss Rassie Erasmus believes his players will continue to strive to do justice to Anthony Foley’s legacy as the province heads into another challenging test of its resilience in the wake of their head coach’s passing, writes Simon Lewis.
Speaking exclusively to the Irish Examiner in a wide-ranging interview to be published in tomorrow’s Weekend Sport supplement, director of rugby Erasmus speaks of his players’ commitment to playing the way “Axel wanted us to play”, even through times that continue to be a struggle less than eight weeks on from Foley’s sudden death.
Munster must still return to the French capital on January 7 to fulfil their Champions Cup round one pool fixture with Top 14 champions Racing 92, the original tie having been postponed on October 16 following the shocking news.
Erasmus accepts that will be a difficult hurdle to negotiate for Munster but that Foley’s presence remained with the players and management on a daily basis.
“Every day or every week, there’s something reminding you,” Erasmus said. “Just Axel’s office or when you sit in a coaches’ meeting, or when we go to play in Cork or play here, there’s always things that remind you. You see his sons at the game or see Olive somewhere...
“It will always be there.
“I think with time, different people handle things differently. We still have to go back to Paris and we have to go and play Racing there, and it’s going to be difficult. But I think what the team’s decided, and we’re not in anyway saying we’re going to win more matches or we’re going to have this wonderful season, but we did decide that we want to play in certain areas the way Axel wanted us to play.
“We can’t say we’re going to win for Axel because we’ll lose a lot of games and then you’re unsuccessful when you say that, but it’s more that we said we want to play the way he wanted us to play and I think that’s his legacy, when we get into those tough times and we’re questioning and wondering why things happen that will be the thing that drives us to get past those things.”
Munster have gone six games unbeaten since Foley’s passing but back-to-back clashes with Leicester, starting tomorrow at Thomond Park, send Erasmus’s team into a testing eight-week period only after which the former Springbok flanker believes he will get an indication of how his charges are progressing since his arrival in June.
“I think we’ll have a good idea at the end of January. We’ll have played two tough games with Glasgow, one in the PRO12 and the other in Europe, both away. We’ll have played Leicester home and away, Leinster at home, Racing home and away. If we don’t know where we stand after that we’ll never know because that’s how tough it gets.”
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner