Foley will be new leader of the pack

THE Munster pack will be answerable to Anthony Foley from next season following confirmation that the former captain will succeed departing forwards coach Laurie Fisher at the end of this campaign.

The 37-year old has been working closely with the forwards in recent months in his capacity as defence coach, which he has combined successfully with his ‘A’ team and U20 duties.

He has also assisted Eric Elwood with the Ireland Wolfhounds, but as of July 1, his sole focus will lie with the Munster forwards, a challenge which he is ready to embrace.

“It has been a busy three years for me,” he said yesterday. “In a year I have worked with three sides, so to be solely focused on one side and one aspect is something I’m looking forward to.”

If Foley’s record as a player is anything to go by, the future of Munster’s forward play appears to be in safe hands. When he retired at the end of the 2007/08 season, he did so as the most capped player in the Heineken Cup and as Munster’s most capped player of all time.

Skipper of the side which finally lifted the Heineken Cup in 2006, Foley clocked up 201 Munster appearances, as well as 62 Test caps with Ireland. Before that, he was part of a Shannon side which won four All-Ireland League titles in a row during the mid-90s. The game may have undergone significant changes since then, but Foley insists the fundamentals of forward play are constant.

“Rugby is about winning the ball,” he explains. “You have certain aspects in which you can win and contest the ball.

“You have your scrum, your lineout, your restarts, rucks and mauls. They have been there since I played and they are there today, so it’s just about recognising that. As you would have seen in the last couple of weeks, our set-piece has come on in leaps and bounds, in terms of the work Laurie Fisher and Paul McCarthy have put into it. It sounds very simple, but at times, that’s what rugby is. It’s about one ball and whether you can win it and make the most out of it.”

Foley has agreed terms for an initial two-year spell and his decision to commit has been welcomed by Munster chief executive Garret Fitzgerald and manager Shaun Payne.

Fitzgerald said: “Laurie’s experience has been hugely beneficial to Munster’s squad and management. It’s now time for Anthony Foley to take this responsibility and impart his experience and great knowledge to the Munster players.”

Payne added: “He (Foley) has the respect of the players. He’s a local boy who understands the culture very well, and I couldn’t think of a better person to step up to the role.”

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