CJ Stander: ‘Axel is in our minds in every game’

The number eight – who scored a try in win over Racing – paid tribute to Anthony Foley

Munster’s CJ Stander with the man of the match award after their win over Racing 92 in the Champions Cup. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Munster’s CJ Stander with the man of the match award after their win over Racing 92 in the Champions Cup. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

CJ Stander paid tribute to the hard work of the late Anthony Foley and his fellow Munster coaches after their 32-7 Champions Cup bonus-point victory over Racing 92.

Munster returned to Stade Yves-du-Manoir, where their round 1 fixture was originally postponed in October due to the tragic death of Foley.

Since the 42-year-old’s passing, the province have really hit a rich vein of form with nine wins in 10 competitive outings, climbing to the top of the Guinness PRO12 and Champions Cup Pool 1 in the process.

While acknowledging that they have been riding that wave of emotion, Stander — the man who wears Foley’s old number eight and who delivered another man-of-the-match performance in Paris — was quick to praise the work done behind the scenes by Foley and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.

“We always keep this emotion in the back of our heads, but we’ve been working hard from pre-season onwards. We have good structures, Axel left a lot of what we’re working on, how we want to play,” said Stander.

“Our coaches, Rassie, Jacques (Nienaber), Fla (Jerry Flannery), Felix (Jones), have got good plans and we just want to go out on the pitch and play for them.

“From a team point of view, everyone worked very hard all week. We said we’d need work-rate and to stand up for each other in this match and honour the big man as we try to do every week.

“Coming back to Paris after his death, you talk about it, the emotion of it, and it catches you again. It’s tough, you remember from last time, you get very emotional.

“You try to hide it, but it’s into you and luckily everyone’s in the same boat. I think we’ve been dealing with it quite well the last few weeks.”

Hooker Niall Scannell’s 56th-minute try sealed the bonus point for Munster, adding to first-half efforts from Simon Zebo, Stander and Andrew Conway which had established a 25-0 half-time lead.

Racing, who fielded a much-changed team as they were already out of contention for the knockout stages, had a consolation score from flanker Matthieu Voisin with 17 minutes remaining.

The result sets up a mouth-watering round five showdown against PRO12 rivals Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun next Saturday. The second-placed Scots trail Erasmus’ side by three pool points and will be hugely determined to avenge October’s 38-0 thrashing at Thomond Park.

Munster captain Peter O’Mahony said: “It was a big win, it’s up there but we’re not going to get carried away. Anywhere in France, especially against a team as passionate and with as much history as Racing, you’d be very proud of the boys. It was quite a mature performance.

“But there’s a lot of work to be done, especially with three big European games to play in as many weeks. We’ve to recover and then work hard to prepare for a side as good as Glasgow are.”

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