Munster rugby is in mourning after the province’s head coach Anthony Foley passed away overnight as the team prepared for their opening Champions Cup fixture against Racing 92 in Paris.
The game against Racing has been rearranged as a mark of respect to the former Munster captain.
Foley was a Munster legend in every sense of the word. He captained the side to Heineken Cup success in 2006 in the twilight of his career and made 202 appearances for the province between 1995 and 2008.
The former Shannon back row forward also made 62 appearances for Ireland in what was a glittering career as a player.
Upon retiring he joined the coaching staff at Munster and had the top job for two seasons until Rassie Erasmus took over as Director of Rugby in the summer. Foley stayed with Munster in a head coaching role.
The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) released the following statement when the news of Foley’s death broke yesterday afternoon.
“It is with deep regret that the Irish Rugby Football Union and Munster Rugby must advise of the passing overnight of Munster Rugby head coach Anthony Foley, at the team hotel in Paris.
“Munster Rugby management are liaising directly with Anthony’s family and will provide them with any assistance and support required.
“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.
“As a mark of respect to Anthony and his family and to support players, management and staff, Muster Rugby have requested that today’s match against Racing 92 be rescheduled.
“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 European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) also released a statement that read: “The EPCR have confirmed that this afternoon’s European Champions Cup game between Racing 92 and Munster, which was due to take place at 3pm at Stade Yves-du-Manoir in Paris, has subsequently been postponed.
EPCR chairman Simon Halliday, said: “On behalf of EPCR, I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to Anthony’s family and to everyone associated with Munster and Irish Rugby. He was a magnificent player and a superb coach and he will be sorely missed.”
Munster rugby CEO Garrett Fitzgerald also released a statement that reads: “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.
“Our immediate thoughts are with Axel’s family, his wife Olive and his two sons Tony and Dan, father Brendan who is here in Paris with us, mother Sheila, sisters Orla and Rosie and the extended Foley family.
“Anthony was the embodiment of Munster Rugby and dedicated his life to the game he loved. From St Munchin’s to Shannon, Munster and then Ireland, Anthony was a true rugby great.
“Widely known for his extensive knowledge of the game and rugby brain, Axel brought so much to the province as a player and then a coach.
“A very popular figure off the field, he was an incredibly likeable character with a great sense of humour and he lived life to the full.
“Always maintaining his strong family connections to his native Killaloe in Clare, Axel was hugely proud of his community and where he came from.
“My earliest memory of Axel is when he was playing number 8 for St Munchin’s in his teens and the hunger and passion he showed even then was evident to all.
“Never a man to back down from a challenge, Anthony’s determination on the field was mirrored by his actions off it, always honest in everything he did. His legacy will live on in the next generation and beyond.
“Anthony will be sorely missed and the thoughts from everyone in the game are with his family at this time,” concluded Fitzgerald.
Foley was a member of a historic Limerick rugby family. His father Brendan was a member of the Munster side that beat the All Blacks in 1978 and his sister Rosie also played for Ireland. He is survived by his wife Olive, their two sons Tony and Dan and extended family and friends.