Munster Rugby head coach Anthony Foley dies in France
President and Taoiseach join sporting figures in expressing sympathy to Foley’s family
Munster Rugby coach Anthony Foley has died suddenly, aged 42, at the team hotel in Paris, it has been announced.
In a statement on Sunday afternoon, Munster and IRFU said: “It is with deep regret that the Irish Rugby Football Union and Munster Rugby must advise of the passing overnight of Munster Rugby head coach Anthony Foley, at the team hotel in Paris.
“Munster Rugby management are liaising directly with Anthony’s family and will provide them with any assistance and support required.
“The IRFU and Munster Rugby pass on our deepest sympathies to all of Anthony’s family and friends and ask for privacy for the family at this sad time.
“As a mark of respect to Anthony and his family and and to support players, management and staff, Muster Rugby have requested that today’s match against Racing 92 be rescheduled.”
Books of condolence will be opened across Munster at noon on Monday.
President Michael D Higgins said he extended his “deepest sympathies” to Foley’s family and close friends.
“Anthony Foley excelled from a young age and made a huge contribution to the successes of Munster and Ireland, in both his playing and coaching careers,” he said.
“He was regarded with great respect and deep affection not just among the Munster rugby fans but by all those interested in Irish sports and those with whom they interacted abroad.
“While news of his death will be received with shock by all those in the rugby and sports world, it is of course first and foremost a great tragedy for his family and close friends.”
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was shocked by the death of Foley. “ It is tragic to lose such a fantastic man at such a young age,” he said. “My thoughts are with his family and his club mates at this awful time.”
A veteran of Irish and Munster rugby, Foley played for Ireland 62 times, captaining his country on three occasions. He also led Munster to their first European Cup victory in 2006. In all, he made 86 appearances in European competition for his province before taking over as Head Coach in 2014.
European Professional Club Rugby chairman Simon Halliday said: “On behalf of EPCR, I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to Anthony’s family and to everyone associated with Munster and Irish rugby. He was a magnificent player and a superb coach and he will be sorely missed.”
Former Ireland and Munster player Donal Lenihan said Munster Rugby was Anthony Foley’s life. “Everything he did was geared for the betterment of Munster Rugby,” he said on RTÉ radio.
Former Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan said he was in shock: “It’s hard to get your head around it. Words don’t come easily on an occasion like this,” he said.
“He wasn’t the biggest number 8 in world rugby, he wasn’t the most phenomenal athlete but he had an incredible rugby brain,” he said
“He had this intrinsic understanding of the nuances of the game, he knew when to run, when to pass…. He knew what was most important based on the score, based on the time on the clock.”
The Mayor of the City and County of Limerick Cllr Kieran O’Hanlon said all Irish flags will be flown at half mast outside council buildings in Limerick on Monday as a mark of respect for Foley.
The Irish Embassy confirmed that it is providing consular assistance to Foley’s family. If the cause of death is not immediately clear, French judiciary police may request a post mortem, which takes from two to seven days, after which the remains are released to the family for burial.
After the death was announced, Munster supporters assembled in front of the stadium to pay homage to the former player and coach, with applause and cheers.
“It’s in the values of rugby to respect the opponent when he has a bad break,’ Jacky Lorenzetti, the president of le Racing, said. “And it’s also in the values of rugby to be brave. So we are going to try to be brave together.”