There will never be a good time to honour their fallen friend on a rugby field but Munster boss Rassie Erasmus said no player wanted to sit out this Saturday’s European clash with Glasgow and miss the opportunity to win a game for Anthony Foley.
Munster will face a red-hot Warriors side in the Champions Cup at Thomond Park this weekend, 24 hours after attending Foley’s funeral in his home village of Killaloe, Co. Clare. It is sure to make for an extremely emotional return to action, six days after Foley died suddenly at their Parisian hotel.
It would be understandable if players felt unable to find the energy to take to the field after such an emotionally draining week but with competition organisers EPCR yesterday confirming the game was going ahead, director of rugby Erasmus yesterday read a pre-prepared statement, printed in full on this page, that acknowledged playing the next game would be difficult but was “hugely important to all of us and cannot be easily dismissed”.
He later added: “I think from the squad side, there’s an opportunity and we don’t want to get this opportunity and miss it, because if we don’t play this weekend, it might be a while before we play here again.
“You don’t want to miss this opportunity for him. I think that’s why it’s a tough choice, but he’s here in a way.”
EPCR’s decision to play on came, it said, after close consultation with Munster Rugby and every Champions Cup game this weekend will be marked by a minute of either silence or applause in tribute to the 2006 Heineken Cup-winning captain.
Erasmus presided over modified training on Tuesday and yesterday and said the squad’s well-being was continuing to be monitored.
“We have to. It’s something tragic that has happened and everybody has to deal with it differently. And then the next two days will obviously be testing. The big thing is to monitor that. The support from Munster, right from Garret Fitzgerald, the CEO, right down to ground level has been very personal, very professional on an individual basis. I think we are doing the best we can with that. And as long as we can keep doing that, I think we will be okay.”
Training without Foley at his side was equally difficult for Erasmus, with the former Springbok flanker, who became Munster’s first director of rugby during the summer adding: “The technical side of it, we were well led by Anthony as the head coach. The technical side of things was in place. The emotions are up there because we want to do it for Anthony. From that side, it wasn’t tough but it was tough not to see him stand there, not to go and talk to him before and afterwards. That’s the tough part.
“You can’t give enough attributes to him, so I almost don’t want to comment on that, because he’s such a massive figure. Whatever I say here is almost like you’re trying to say something and you can’t say it.
“When I came for the interview, way before I had the job, I met him, and those would be the kind of people, with that passion, that I wanted to be part of that, because I knew about Munster a long time before I met Anthony, apart from playing against him. And then when I sat down with him in the hotel and discussed with him, I wanted to be here. That’s how welcome he made me feel. And that’s basically it.”
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