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Les Kiss wants a focused Ulster for Munster's emotional visit following Anthony Foley death

By Jonathan Bradley

With Munster and Irish rugby continuing to mourn the loss of Anthony Foley, Ulster are anticipating another emotionally-charged evening when the Thomond Park outfit visit Belfast in the Guinness PRO12 on Friday night.

The contest will be Munster's first away fixture since the passing of their head coach in Paris on October 16 - they produced a resounding win against Glasgow Warriors in Saturday's Champions Cup game - and their northern neighbours are planning a series of tributes to the Shannon man.

A minute's silence was impeccably observed before Ulster's victory over Exeter at the weekend while the fans sang a poignant version of 'The Fields of Athenry' as the match kicked-off.

A book of condolence will be at Kingspan Stadium all week and CEO Shane Logan revealed last week that a memorial plaque - similar to the one placed in Thomond Park following the death of Ulster player Nevin Spence four years ago - will be put in the away changing room in time for the game.

Director of Rugby Les Kiss, who had Foley's number eight inked onto his cap for the game against Exeter, said: "I think first and foremost it's going to be emotional again. We'll still be paying a lot of our respects to Anthony.

"A lot of us went down to Limerick at one time or another in the last week and it really hit home."

Glasgow, who came into the weekend after a hugely impressive opening-round win over Leicester, had no answer for Munster's emotional intensity with Kiss hoping his own side can strike the right balance between their sympathy and desire for a result.

"You watch that Munster game and you're lost for words when you see the outpouring of emotion from the rugby community," he added.

"It seems like it'll take forever for it to sink in and become real but we've got a couple of nights to recover, get our heads on and take on Munster.

"There'll be a plaque in the dressing room and there'll be a lot of things done. It's about managing those elements but also being able to crystallise what this game is really about, just like Axel would want.

"We've had it ourselves with Nevin and we know there is going to be a lot of emotion. We have to accept that and work with it and maybe do something they won't like by winning to stay top of the league."

Bringing back memories of hearing 'Stand Up for the Ulstermen' in the RDS shortly after Spence's death, skipper Andrew Trimble hailed the Ulster fans for their rendition of a Munster anthem.

"It's really classy stuff. We should be very proud of what we created, a sport where we look after each other and stand up for what's right. That was a really classy touch from the Ulster supporters," he said.

Trimble watched Munster, a side containing a handful of Irish international team-mates, with extra interest on Saturday.

"I think anybody, certainly anybody in Irish rugby who had any connection to Axel, was a Munster supporter this weekend. Just seeing the way they turned up, performed and the intensity they played with (was impressive).

"Obviously they were doing that for Axel, to give him a send off. It was a hairs on the back of your neck standing up kind of afternoon at Thomond Park.

"It was a big ask for Glasgow to go there with all that emotion and intensity around. We are going to have to dig deep next week and try and match that."

With Ireland's November slate this season consisting of four rather than three Tests, player management will be more stringent than ever with the likelihood being that Joe Schmidt's front-liners will be wrapped in cotton wool this week.

That would necessitate a reshuffle for an Ulster side that picked up another handful of injury concerns in the win over the weekend.

Iain Henderson, who likely would have been one of those kept back with New Zealand in Chicago next Saturday in mind regardless, injured a shoulder.

Both tight-head props were in the wars too, Rodney Ah You injuring his leg and Ross Kane receiving a number of stitches.

If either are absent, Wiehahn Herbst could perhaps be pressed into a comeback after coming through his return to action with the 'A' side in the B&I Cup.

Dan Tuohy, who was due to feature against Munster, picked up an injury in the same game and fellow lock Pete Browne is also struggling.

Belfast Telegraph


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