Gregor Townsend says Glasgow Warriors will do all they can to honour the memory of Anthony Foley, the Munster coach who died suddenly in Paris last Sunday, aged just 42.
Glasgow will play Munster at their Thomond Park home on Saturday, kick-off 1pm, in what is set to be an emotion-charged afternoon in Limerick.
A French coroner said that Foley died due to a heart condition which led to a build-up of fluid in his lungs. He was found dead in his Paris hotel room ahead of the scheduled European Champions Cup opener against Racing 92, which was subsequently postponed.
It was confirmed yesterday that the Munster-Glasgow Pool 1 match will go ahead on Saturday, the day after the former Ireland international back-rower’s funeral takes place in County Clare tomorrow.
A minute’s silence or a minute’s applause in Foley’s memory will be observed at all matches in the Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup over the weekend, and Townsend said the Warriors will be keen to make their own commemoration.
“The details said that it is a small village and a private funeral,” said Townsend at Scotstoun yesterday. “There will be a big demand from people who want to attend that – friends, family, people who knew him well. But if we can be involved in some way, whether it be signing a book of condolence or being represented at the funeral, we will.”
Townsend said it had been “a tough week for world rugby and sport” following the shocking development and confessed that he initially found the news difficult to take in. “It started to appear on Twitter and I thought someone had hacked an account. It seemed like a sick joke, it just didn’t make sense,” said the 43-year-old, who played against Foley many times from schoolboy level up and gone head to head as coaches for a number of years in the Guinness Pro12.
“You can tell from the response across the world, this just doesn’t seem right,” added Townsend. “There’s a guy who is young, the life and soul of a party, always upbeat and chatty. It just seems not right. It is a huge shock for the people of Munster and Ireland. It has gone beyond rugby. This is an event that all sport is shocked by. Maybe you don’t appreciate people’s lives until they’ve gone, but what he did for Munster to become one of the best teams in Europe, to have a huge stadium and a legacy makes him one of the most important figures in Irish rugby over the last couple of decades.”
Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, speaking at a press conference yesterday afternoon, was asked about the decision to play the match and the planned tribute for Foley. He said: “We don’t want to miss this opportunity for him. It’s a tough choice. It’s not easy either way but we don’t want to miss this opportunity.”
A funeral Mass for Foley on Friday takes place in St Flannan’s Church in his home town of Killaloe, Co Clare.
Ireland and Munster back row Peter O’Mahony broke down as he tried to put into words what the late coach meant to him and the club. He recalled Foley being as happy with the narrow win in his first game as a 60-point victory.
“He was a man that wanted a Munster jersey win,” he said.
“I’m not going to do him justice here. It’s all the words I can say to be honest.
“The amount that we have lost now that he has gone is incredible – the rugby knowledge and brain, the man and the friend and coach and brother that we have lost. It’s mad.”