Munster head coach Anthony Foley has died at the age of 42.
Foley passed away overnight at the team’s hotel in Paris ahead of Munster’s European Champions Cup game against Racing 92 this afternoon.
The match was postponed after the sad news emerged and will be rescheduled for a later date.
A statement from the Irish Rugby Football Union read: “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, Munster Rugby have requested that today’s match against Racing 92 be rescheduled. Munster Rugby thank Racing 92, EPCR, broadcasters and partners, and the many fans who traveled to Paris for their understanding and support at this time.”
Foley played for Ireland 62 times as a back-row forward and captained his country on three occasions. He also captained Munster to their first European Cup triumph in 2006.
In a statement, the CEO of Munster Rugby, Garrett Fitzgerald, called Foley the “embodiment” of the club.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened by today’s news and the sudden passing of a Munster Rugby great, our Head Coach, former player, colleague and friend Anthony Foley,” he said.
“Our immediate thoughts are with Axel’s family, his wife Olive and his two sons Tony and Dan, father Brendan who is here in Paris with us, mother Sheila, sisters Orla and Rosie and the extended Foley family.
“Anthony was the embodiment of Munster Rugby and dedicated his life to the game he loved. From St Munchin’s to Shannon, Munster and then Ireland, Anthony was a true rugby great.
“Widely known for his extensive knowledge of the game and rugby brain, Axel brought so much to the province as a player and then a coach.
“A very popular figure off the field, he was an incredibly likeable character with a great sense of humour and he lived life to the full.
“Never a man to back down from a challenge, Anthony’s determination on the field was mirrored by his actions off it, always honest in everything he did. His legacy will live on in the next generation and beyond.
“Anthony will be sorely missed and the thoughts from everyone in the game are with his family at this time.”
He made a try-scoring international debut against England in the 1995 Six Nations, but it was from 2000 to 2005 that he became established as a key figure in Ireland’s team. Foley made just one substitute appearance at the 1995 World Cup before starting two matches at the 2003 tournament, and last featured in international rugby during the 2005 Six Nations.
He retired from playing in 2008, leaving Munster after making more than 200 appearances for the provincial side.
He was named head coach of Munster in 2014 after having also coached the Munster ‘A’ team, the Ireland Wolfhounds and the Irish forwards on a temporary basis in 2012.
Foley is survived by his wife Olive and two sons Tony and Dan.
His father Brendan, who was with the Munster party in Paris at the time of his son’s death, was a lock forward who won 11 Ireland caps and was part of the Munster team which beat the All Blacks in 1978.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam