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Anthony Foley death: Irish rugby has lost a legend and great man

Anthony Foley 1973-2016

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster Rugby yesterday paid tribute to Anthony Foley after the Munster head coach's sudden death, aged just 42.

The former Ireland captain passed away in a Paris hotel where his team were preparing to take on Racing 92 in the Champions Cup.

Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss, who coached alongside Foley during the Shannon man's short stints with the national side, said that his "great friend" would be missed by all involved with Irish rugby.

"To lose Anthony at such a young age is such a tragedy. He was a great man, a great friend.

"He loved the game of rugby, loved Munster, loved Ireland, and what they stood for. He'll be a great loss and our thoughts go out to his family, go out to Munster and all of Irish rugby. We've lost a legend and it hurts."

More: Inspirational Anthony Foley epitomised all that was good about the game of rugby

Having just watched his side lose to Bordeaux-Begles in their own Champions Cup opener, Kiss admitted that such a sudden and shocking death offers a reminder of what is really important.

"That's real life and absolutely it does offer perspective. We get a chance to turn up tomorrow and do something about what happened today but that's ended for Anthony and it's a lot of pain for his family and Munster.

"It's tragic and puts a lot of context on things like rugby. We get to fight another day, and our thoughts go out to his family, his friends and all of Munster."

Ulster captain Andrew Trimble echoed the sentiments of Kiss.

"It just puts things in perspective and it's just so sad. All the boys collectively offer our condolences to the family and the team," he said.

"A game of rugby means nothing now.

"There's a lot of sadness there and we'll be praying for those people and thinking about them."

More: Anthony Foley death: Memories of amazing man will never fade away

In a statement released last night, the province's CEO Shane Logan described Foley as a man who "represented everything great about our sport".

"I, like many others, was deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the news of the tragic passing of Anthony Foley," he said.

"The thoughts and prayers of everyone at Ulster Rugby are with Anthony's family and friends at this very sad time.

"He was a legendary figure of the game of rugby union and represented everything that is great about our sport.

"His exploits on the pitch were well-documented but he was equally impressive off the pitch and was hugely popular in rugby circles.

"He will be missed dearly by his family, friends, and the wider rugby community."

The news of Foley's death has reverberated around the world of rugby. Former French international Sebastien Chabal posted a message on social media.

"Sad news to learn the coach and great former Irish number 8, Anthony Foley, has left us," Mr Chabal wrote on Twitter.

Former Ireland player Donal Lenihan said that Foley "epitomises what Munster rugby is all about".

"It's absolutely shocking. There's nothing but shock in the air," he said.

"You think first of his wife and kids. It will take a long time to recover from this," he said.

Brian O'Driscoll also took to social media to pay tribute to Foley.

"Can't quite believe it. So incredibly sad. My thoughts are with Olive, his boys and his extended family," he said.

Shane Byrne, former hooker for Ireland, said: "As a player, he had this innate ability to make the right decision at the right time."

A statement from Munster Rugby was released yesterday, and it said: "It is with great sadness that we bid farewell to our coach, former captain, colleague and friend today. Rest in peace, Anthony Foley."

Former Irish head coach Eddie O'Sullivan added: "Leadership is a special skill. It's about knowing what to say and the time to say it. Anthony got that."

Belfast Telegraph


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