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Glasgow expecting a poignant occasion for Foley at Thomond Park

By David Kelly

Published 21/10/2016

Rugby united: Former Ulster Director of Rugby David Humphreys joins Leinster star Jonathan Sexton as crowds gathered to pay their respects to former Munster coach Anthony Foley in Killaloe
Rugby united: Former Ulster Director of Rugby David Humphreys joins Leinster star Jonathan Sexton as crowds gathered to pay their respects to former Munster coach Anthony Foley in Killaloe

If anything can possibly represent the true essence of rugby in a grieving Thomond Park tomorrow, it will be the prospect of a respectful opposition doing their utmost to draw the innermost from the weary spirits of the men in red.

Glasgow Warriors will, as best they can muster, attempt to fulfil their end of a terrifically difficult convention.

"It's hard to know," says Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend, who knew Anthony Foley (below) as a colleague and combatant for more than half his short life.

"They would have been predicting an excellent attendance anyway. It is a different level because the stadium gets full and they come out with such a good European record. It brings the best out of them.

"Obviously there will be poignancy, but there will be a lot of noise. There will be a feeling of togetherness.

"You'll see lots of red jerseys in the crowd and you'll see the team come together. We are expecting a difficult game."

Just as Munster will look to their strongest characters to somehow navigate the route from their inner despair towards accepting the public exhortations of their faithful, so too will the Scots look to their leaders to set their own particular tone.

"Both of them and other leaders," adds Townsend, who has appointed co-captains, lock Jonny Gray and scrum-half Henry Pyrgos, for a campaign that opened with a stunning hometown bonus point win against Leicester Tigers.

"One of the key aspects last week was how leaders stepped up throughout the team. We have people in key decision-making positions.

"Finn Russell had an excellent game and Josh Strauss played his best game of the season and probably the calendar year. Rob Harley, Ryan Wilson, Stuart Hogg all played really well.

"It will be important in any away game that these guys talk and work out what's happening during game. We have prepared really well, as we did last week, with three days of training and staying in a hotel.

"Preparation is important but it's about how the players react to what is happening during the game that will win us the game.

"They did that really well against Leicester because they worked out where we could pressure them and where we have to be strong. We have to do that again this weekend."

There has been little need for the squad to overly stress the immense emotion of the occasion that will greet them in Limerick.

"No - Gregor has spoken a bit about the situation," says Pyrgos. "We'll pay our respects before the game.

"It's an incredibly sad occasion but as rugby players all we can do is cope with what we can manage because there's always distractions in rugby.

"These aren't the same as the usual distractions, but for us we've just got to make sure, which we will and we have done, that we focus on our jobs.

"I think you can see from the training week that we've had that guys are in a good frame of mind and they know what's at stake.

"It's never down to just one or two players in a squad, in a rugby team. So yeah it's a little bit different but we're in a good place I think.

"I can't imagine what they're going through. We're expecting Munster to come out and give the best possible performance they can and we know we're going to have to be right up there, one of our best performances, to go and win the game."

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