Rory Best: Together in red, Munster will do Anthony Foley's memory justice

The Ireland captain spoke to Alan Quinlan on Newstalk Breakfast

BY Cian Roche 08:25 Friday 21 October 2016, 8:25 21 Oct 2016

Image: ©INPHO 

Ireland captain Rory Best this morning paid tribute to Anthony Foley and opened up about his memories of the former Irish international.

The rugby community remain in a state of shock this week following his sudden death last Sunday, and the Munster legend will be laid to rest in his home town of Killaloe on Friday.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, Best shared some of his memories with Alan Quinlan, and outlined the huge impact the the legendary number 8 had on him. 

"As an Ulster player, I remember the few times I played against him and that he was an incredibly difficult player to play against," he said. "You knew the team that he was involved in and that he captained would be incredibly difficult to play against, because they had a confidence and a self-belief.

"He had a want to win, which is hard to find in individuals and probably even harder to make a team around you want to do. He had that ability."

The pair played alongside one another in an Ireland shirt, and Best admits that his early experiences of Foley helped to mould him into the player he is today.

"The big memory I have is coming into my first Ireland camp in 2005. I remember being in the non-starting pack and Axel was number 8. The starting pack was full of Munster players, but you assumed whatever environment you were in, everyone stuck together.

"When he brought us in as a non-starting pack, we were doing a scrummaging session, and he said 'let's get into these boys... If I get the ball at the back I'm going to keep it in and let's see if we can march them back'.

"It just showed that he was there, trying to prepare his friends for the game, but the best way he thought to do that was to hammer the life out of them.

"He liked to be the best he could, and he liked to make sure the people around him were ready for battle. Certainly, when you played against him, that's what you expected and that's what you got."

Anthony Foley lift the Heineken Cup with Munster. Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan 

Ulster rugby suffered a similar tragedy when the province mourned the loss of Nevin Spence, who was recognised by Munster after they erected a plaque in his honour. Ahead of Munster's Champions Cup clash with Glasgow this weekend, Best says that preparation will prove to be the most difficult part of the game. 

"The build-up to it will be the really tough bit. That's what we found in the first game leading back [after the passing of Nevin Spence]. You get out on the pitch, and you do what Axel did best. You do what he would want you to do, which is to go out and play. You'll slip back into playing a lot easier, because you won't have any time to think about it.

"We found the worst thing was the downtime, when you had a moment when you're on your own. When you're on the pitch you don't have that. In the lead up to the game, the atmosphere will be electric because there's going to be so much emotion. 

"Anthony loved rugby. He clearly loved Munster rugby. That was clear for everyone to see. The result will look after itself for them, and I suppose his memory won't be judged on their result. 

"They just have to go out and enjoy playing together. You don't want to do anything that would put an additional pressure on them, like saying that the result will do his memory justice. The fact that they're together in red will do his memory justice.

"It's going to be a tough thing for them to do, but it's what he would have wanted given how much Munster rugby meant to him."

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