Paris - Munster head coach and former Irish international Anthony
Foley died suddenly in a Paris hotel on Sunday at the age of 42, triggering a
flood of tributes from stunned former teammates, opponents and admirers of the
Foley, a married father of two boys, was one of Irish
rugby's most prominent figures whose father was also capped for his country.
In a tribute, the president of Ireland, Michael Higgins,
dubbed Foley "one of the great figures of Irish sport in the modern
"It is with great sadness that we bid farewell to our
coach, former captain, colleague and friend today, rest in peace Anthony
Foley," Munster Rugby tweeted.
The Irish province's European Champions Cup match against
Racing 92, scheduled for Sunday in Paris, was postponed to a later date.
Munster fans who had travelled to Paris for the Racing match
gathered outside the Stade Yves-du-Manoir in north-western Paris, laying
flowers on flags and breaking into spontaneous renditions of Munster's adopted
hymn, 'The Fields of Athenry'.
As a robust backrow forward, Foley led Munster to European
Cup victory in 2006 with victory over Biarritz in Cardiff and went on to win 62
caps for Ireland, captaining the national side on three occasions, his last
appearance coming in 2005 after debuting 10 years earlier.
He played 86 European matches for Munster, including a
record 71 consecutive games, and retired in 2008 as the club's most-capped
player with 194 appearances for the provincial side.
He was named head coach of the Irish province in 2014 after
having also coached the Munster 'A' team, the Ireland Wolfhounds and the Irish
forwards on a temporary basis in 2012.
French police in the western suburb of Suresnes have opened
an enquiry to confirm the cause of death of the forward affectionally known as
'Axel' after Eddie Murphy's character from the film Beverly Hills Cop.
"The IRFU (Ireland rugby union) 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," a joint statement said.
Organisers of the European Champions Cup confirmed the
postponement of Munster's opener against Racing in Paris.
"Due to the tragic passing in Paris of Munster Rugby
head coach and former captain, Anthony Foley, today's European Rugby Champions
Cup Round 1 match between Racing 92 and Munster Rugby has been postponed and
will be rescheduled," organisers European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR)
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."
Racing released a statement saying it accepted without
reservation the postponement of the game.
Ireland President Higgins, a patron of the IRFU, praised
Foley's "huge contribution to the successes of Munster and Ireland, in
both his playing and coaching careers."
Frankie Sheahan, the former Ireland and Munster hooker,
posted a recent photo of him and others celebrating ex-Ireland international
Mick Galwey's birthday.
"Distraught at the tragic news of Anthony Foley, great
friend, team-mate & legend. Super form last weekend at Mick Galwey's 50th.
Incomprehensible," he said.
Donal Lenihan, who made his debuts for both Munster and
Ireland caps alongside Foley's father Brendan - a member of the Munster side
that beat the All Blacks in 1978, said: "Everybody's just been taken by
Foley's sudden death brought a welter of reaction from the
wider rugby family.
World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper tweeted:
"Shocked by the tragic news of Anthony Foley.
"All at World Rugby send our heart-felt condolences and
thoughts to family, friends and Munster."
"Unbelievably sad news. Thoughts and prayers with all
Anthony's family, friends and colleagues. RIP," added the Welsh Rugby
Glasgow Warriors coach and former Scotland international
Gregor Townsend said it was a "sad day for rugby".