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Ronan O'Gara Reveals Racing's Commendable Response To News Of Anthony Foley's Passing

Ronan O'Gara Reveals Racing's Commendable Response To News Of Anthony Foley's Passing
By Gavan Casey Updated

Tributes continue to pour in from around the rugby world for Munster icon Anthony Foley, who tragically passed away on the eve of his side's Champions Cup clash at Racing 92 last weekend.

When news broke of Axel's untimely departure last Sunday morning, thoughts naturally turned to his wife, Olive, and his two young children. He was, above all else, a family man. Amongst the outpouring of pure sadness, there was immense sympathy, too, for Racing coach Ronan O'Gara, to whom Foley was more than just a former teammate, but a dear friend.

O'Gara naturally plunged into a state of desolation having received an unwanted call from Munster Chief Executive Garrett Fitzgerald, but his new team we also left immensely saddened by the events which transpired last Sunday.

Writing in his Irish Examiner column - this week aptly headlined 'A week we want to forget. A friend we will never forget' - the Cork man explained how silence fell upon the Racing squad when news emerged that Foley had passed away on the eve of the Parisiens' clash with Munster.

Munster never got to the ground in Colombes. Racing had been and left. We drop the gear there early before repairing to a nearby hotel for a team meeting and a pre-match meal.

I told one or two of the players before the team meeting that there was no game. Word spread quickly. This was around 1pm Irish time. I told our joint head coach Laurent Labit I had just got a call. They [Racing] were brilliant in the way they immediately said it was not possible to play the game, even though a postponement hadn't even been mooted at this point.

'Foley? Foley's a legend', Labit said. 'The Munster players cannot play'.

I think Garret [Fitzgerald, Munster chief executive] had rang the EPCR and said if you want to give the game to Racing, do so, but our [Racing's] coaches had said under no circumstances would that happen. And these were some circumstances. Our boys were having coffee, getting strapped up. Once they heard the reason, there was just silent disbelief.

In a tremendous piece which also indicates that RyanAir chief Michael O'Leary laid on the plane which took Axel's body home to Ireland, O'Gara later looks ahead to Munster's fixture with Glasgow at Thomond Park tomorrow afternoon. Breaking character, slightly, from his role at Racing, the iconic former fly-half - who will be present in Limerick tomorrow - succinctly explains why the Limerick crowd will play their most important role ever during tomorrow's fixture:

We will get through Killaloe because Munster's knees don't buckle. They'll stand firm. Tomorrow at Thomond Park, Munster and Glasgow heads will be all over the place. The players will be emotionally drained because it's too much for any human to be able to park what's happened.

You can't do that. But what we will see is the crowd at Thomond Park carrying the Munster team. There is only one man who could trigger the tsunami of emotion we are bracing ourselves for, and that is Axel, because that ground hasn't been full in a few years, and there's one reason it'll be full tomorrow - to go an respect Axel. That's why I'm going.

It's an extraordinary and deeply personal column from O'Gara, and we'd highly recommend you pop out to the shop to retrieve today's Examiner to read it. It can be found in the paper's 12-page tribute to the late, great Axel Foley.

Munster vs Glasgow kicks off at 1pm on Saturday.

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SEE ALSO: 'Life Is So Fucking Fickle' - David Corkery's Emotional Speech To Remember Anthony Foley

SEE ALSO: Scarlets Unveil Fitting Jersey Homage To Anthony Foley For Weekend Fixture

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