Former Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan has paid his tributes to Munster Head Coach Anthony Foley who was pronounced dead on Sunday morning after passing away overnight at Munster’s team hotel in Paris.
Munster were due to face Racing 92 in their Champions Cup opener at the Stade Yves-Du-Manoir in Colombes, but the match was quickly cancelled after news emerged of Foley’s sudden death.
Tributes have poured in from around the Rugby world since the former Ireland backrower’s passing with Ulster Director Of Rugby Les Kiss paying a touching tribute to the 42-year-old father of three claiming Foley was a proud Munster man and an even prouder family man.
Former Ireland Coach Eddie O’Sullivan also offered his condolences and said that Foley was an integral part of what he called the ‘fabric of Irish Rugby’.
“It’s just start to get your head around what’s happened, a young man in his prime just taken away like that so suddenly,” O’Sullivan told BBC Radio.
“A guy from a rugby perspective, from the rugby community, the rugby family in Ireland, somebody who was basically part of the fabric of Irish Rugby.
“Everybody was looking at Anthony to spend the rest of his life in Rugby and just a fantastic guy and taken away so suddenly. It’s hard to process the shock to be honest.”
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The former Ireland coach added that Foley had a fascinating rugby brain and that he was a great player to have around the Ireland dressing room.
Foley played four years under O’Sullivan with Ireland between 2001 and 2005, and O’Sullivan said that he could have been a future Ireland coach with his knowledge and experience in the game.
“The best way to describe him was that he looked like an old school player, he wasn’t your standard athletic number 8 that we’re used to seeing nowadays in the game,” added O’Sullivan.
“He was physically relatively average but he compensated for that in so many ways. He had a fantastic skillset, he was a very skillful footballer, but for me, somebody who was fortunate enough to coach him, he had an incredible rugby brain.
“What I mean by that it’s not just the decision making on the field or when to run or when to pass, he always understood that, but his understanding of the dynamics of the game. When the team needed to hold onto the ball, when the team needed to kick the ball, when the team needed to get out of their own territory, when it was important to score, the overarching dynamics that make the game so tactically important.
“He understood that on the field and he was a great leader as well. He brought great leadership, even to teams that he wasn’t captain of, he was almost always a senior player all the time and he was great around younger players.
“He ticked all the boxes as a rugby coach in that he understood the game so well and his coaching career has been so short it’s just very, very sad.
“As a guy you would have thought at some point in his career would have gone on to coach Ireland, having played over 60 times for Ireland, that he would have gone on to coach Ireland.
“It’s a massive, massive loss to Rugby as well as a loss to Munster and obviously my heart goes out to his family.”
Foley is survived by his wife Olive and their two boys Tony and Dan.
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