Inspirational Anthony Foley epitomised all that was good about the game of rugby
World of rugby mourns as Munster head coach Foley tragically passes away in his French hotel room the day before his team were due to play
Munster Rugby head coach Anthony Foley represented "all that was good about rugby", according to a former Ulster star.
Foley (42), from Killaloe, Co Clare, died in his sleep the day before his team were due to play Racing 92 in Paris, France.
Last night, former Ulster and Ireland rugby star, Trevor Ringland, said Foley's talent was recognised beyond the Munster team he represented with pride.
"Anthony epitomised all that was good about rugby players, and rugby forwards in particular," he said.
"He had a tremendous determination and inspired the team through the commitment he showed in the way he played.
"We all took enjoyment from the success of that Munster side that he was captain of, and the way they played. He was very much an inspirational part of it.
"As a player and then as a coach, he was involved in rugby all the way through, and for his life to be taken at such a tragically young age is just so sad."
Mr Ringland, who was capped 31 times by Ireland, recalled making his international debut against Anthony's father, Brendan. "It was against Australia in 1981 and Brendan was the second row," he added.
Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss, who has coached, said his "great friend" would be missed by all involved with Irish Rugby.
"To lose Axel at such a young age is such a tragedy. He was a great man, a great friend," he said.
"We've lost a legend and it hurts."
Captain Andrew Trimble said the news "just puts things in perspective".
"A game of rugby means nothing now," he added.
Former Ulster player Tyrone Howe was appearing on Sky Sports as a pundit when the news broke yesterday lunchtime.
Fighting back tears, he said Foley was "one of the heartbeats of everything that was good about Munster rugby". "In Ireland, there are four provinces, and we try and beat the living daylights out of each other when it comes to on the pitch, but it is a big family," he added.
Another former Ulster player, Stephen Ferris, wrote on Twitter: "Very saddened by the tragic news of Anthony Foley's passing. Thoughts are with his family and all at Munster Rugby."
Earlier, the Munster team had assembled for their morning line-out practice, ahead of the Champions Cup clash against Racing Metro, coached by Foley's lifelong friend and playing colleague, Ronan O'Gara.
However, when Foley didn't arrive, his fellow coaches simply presumed that he had failed to adjust his watch to account for the extra hour.
But they also knew that would not be like the professional Foley they knew so well.
Jerry Flannery, another lifelong friend and colleague from school-days and beyond, tried ringing Foley on his mobile but he could not get through.
He also telephoned the Munster team manager, another ex-Shannon man, Niall O'Donovan, but he too could not contact Foley in the team's Novotel base.
The decision was made to acquire a room card when there was also no reply from the telephone in his room; it was then the grimmest and most terrible of discoveries was made.
Yesterday evening, shocked friends and colleagues of Foley gathered to somehow collect their thoughts amidst the debris of broken hearts.
They comforted each other at a makeshift shrine, bedecked with flowers and Munster jerseys assembled at the gates of the Stade Yves Du Manoir in north-west Paris.
A book of condolences was also hastily acquired and messages of sympathy poured on to every page, from every corner of Europe, typifying how this tragic loss had touched every family in the sport, not just the Foleys.