Rugby

Emotional rematch for Munster a year after Foley's death

2017-10-20 13:47
Anthony Foley (Getty Images)

Dublin - Munster players will wear the Irish Heart Foundation's logo on their jerseys when they play French side Racing 92 on Saturday in an emotional rematch a year after the death of head coach Anthony Foley.

"Axel" Foley, a formidable No 8 who skippered Munster to the 2006 European Cup title, was found dead in his Paris hotel room on October 16, 2016, hours before a scheduled match against Racing 92.

The team are collaborating with the Irish Heart Foundation to leave a life-saving legacy in memory of Foley, whose death was related to a heart disorder, with the aim of highlighting the importance of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training.

"This will hopefully help save lives and if it's only one it will be more than worth every effort made. It's an initiative that I know Anthony would really appreciate," said Foley's widow, Olive.

Last October's match was rescheduled, eventually being played in January with Racing 92 supporters offering free accommodation for Munster fans travelling to Paris for the European Champions Cup clash.

A statue of Foley with a ball clutched to his chest was unveiled on the banks of the River Shannon in Limerick in June.

"It illustrates the hero Anthony Foley was and always will be," said then Limerick mayor Kieran O'Hanlon.

And a moving documentary, "Anthony Foley: Munsterman", broadcast on the anniversary of Foley's death earlier this week by national broadcaster RTE, tells the story of Munster rugby through the life of the player.

"When I was in the Munster hotel (in Paris) they removed what I now know was Axel from the hotel. That was it and unfortunately, that image can't get out of my head," said Racing 92 defence coach Ronan O'Gara, a former Munster player.

"The boys have incorporated Axel into a lot of things we do," Munster's South African director of rugby Johan "Rassie" Erasmus said in the film.

"His office is right next to mine and we do certain things there," he added. "Team talks and some things in the team environment, we keep him there."

As for what the man himself might think of it all, his sister Rosie has a fair idea. "Anthony wouldn't have liked the fuss or anything like that."

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