Conor Murray has welcomed Anthony Foley’s coronation as Munster coach-to-be and believes the core leadership group in place at the province can help the new man bring further success to the province.
Foley’s promotion was no surprise and he was duly announced as the successor to Rob Penney — who departs for a role in Japan at the end of the season — earlier this week. The former captain will take over from the New Zealander as of July 1.
“When Rob and Simon [Mannix] announced their departure it was disappointing. This year in particular we’ve got used to the way he wants us to play and we’re coming on great as a young team. In saying that, he’s still exposed a lot of young players and that’s great for whatever way Axel wants us to play.
“Axel, his heart is in the right place. He’s a Munster man through and through and he’s one of those coaches who absolutely has an unbelievable knowledge of the game. If you go to him with a query or a rule that you don’t quite understand he won’t even have to check it for you, he’ll know it inside out and he’d be fully sure of it. You take confidence from that.”
Foley’s encyclopaedic knowledge of rugby is matched only by his familiarity with Munster, with whom he and his father, Brendan, have both served, the younger man captaining them to a first Heineken Cup in 2006 and winning another medal two years later.
Long mooted as a Munster head coach, he has served his apprenticeship with the province’s U20s, the A side and as assistant to Penney while also gaining experience as Ireland forwards coach under Declan Kidney and as head man with the Wolfhounds last month.
“When he was playing, players constantly refer to how smart he was, how much of a quick thinker he was,” said Murray. “He could put himself in a position where he knew the ball was eventually going to be, so I think he’s going to be really good for us.
“As well as that, there are number of young players who are taking leadership roles within our squad at the moment and we’re going to keep pushing that on ourselves. Hopefully that won’t disappear when Axel takes charge because there’s a core group there that want success and want this team to work so hopefully we can keep going on that.”
Few know Foley better than Paul O’Connell, who soldiered with the man for the bones of seven years before the former’s retirement in 2008, and the Ireland skipper was lavish in his praise of him yesterday.
“It will be good for Munster,” said O’Connell. “He has a lot of experience now, even from two years ago. I am sure he has enjoyed working under Rob and seeing a different way of playing and doing things.
“In that period he was obviously up in Irish camp working with Get Smal, Less Kiss and Deccie and this year with Joe and the Wolfhounds. He’s an excellent coach and Munster to the core so it will be a good appointment for Munster.”
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