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Thursday 8 December 2016

A team united in grief

Erasmus: This match will be about Anthony

Peter O’Mahony of Munster during a press conference at the University of Limerick. Pic: Sportsfile
Peter O’Mahony of Munster during a press conference at the University of Limerick. Pic: Sportsfile

The memory of Anthony Foley will permeate every human heart and patch of soil at Thomond Park on Saturday.

It is unknowable how the death of the Munster coach will be channelled by the players who worked to impress him every day of their adult lives.

In so many ways, you wouldn't want to be one of them, asked to put a tragedy out of your mind when it is probably all that is on your mind.

In another way, you wouldn't want to be a Glasgow Warrior entering into a battle that will take precedence over anything that has gone before it in the European Cup.

"One's life is greater than any sport or sporting occasion," said Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus.

"However, Thomond Park held a special place in Axel's heart and, as difficult as it will be to play the next game, no matter the time, opposition and venue, we have an opportunity to play there this Saturday.

"That is something that is hugely important to all of us and cannot be easily dismissed.

"Playing in Thomond Park further ties us to his memory and will be a chance for all, including our supporters and the community, to feel that connection and closeness to him at this time.

"It will be about Anthony this weekend and for a long time."

The guaranteed pulsating atmosphere will lift the Munster men and infuse them with the adrenalin and energy to last.

This is a competition built on the back of Munster's great adventures, many heartbreaks and, ultimately, glory ten years ago when Foley finally took hold of the Heineken Cup at The Millennium Stadium.

"Munster was probably the team that shaped the Champions Cup for what it is today," stated Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend.

"Winning away from home, winning in France, getting to finals, winning big games in those finals and having huge travelling support."

The challenge will be to do what Munster didn't against Northampton in the 2000 Heineken Cup final.

The coaches and players have to take the pent-up emotion, frustration and anger and use it as fuel for the fire that can not burn out before the end.

Munster captain Peter O'Mahony shared a passion for the game and the province.

Theirs has been a relationship founded on the same undying devotion to Munster.

"I'm not going to do him justice here. Personally, he meant a huge amount," he said, at Munster's media event yesterday.

"I haven't supported a Munster team that he wasn't involved in. The amount he's given the club, it can't be calculated.

"The amount we've lost now that he's gone, the rugby knowledge; the man, the coach and the friend, it's huge."

Meanwhile, Connacht's Tiernan O'Halloran has been sidelined by a knee injury.

It could jeopradise the full-back's ambition to add to his two Ireland caps in November just when he was beginning to show real form.

Pat Lam's out-half signing Marnitz Boshoff is due in Galway at the end of the week.

He will undergo a routine medical examination before being introduced into full training.

Lock Quinn Roux and centre Eoin Griffin are on the way back from concussion and centre Peter Robb is back in training from his hip injury.

Louis Ludik has signed a three-year contract extension at Ulster.

The South African will qualify to represent Ireland next summer and is currently working his way back from a fractured cheek bone.

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