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Foley eyeing 'big finals' in May despite fearsome Champions Cup opposition

Munster’s new head coach believes Saracens, Clermont and Sale would have preferred to avoid his side.

Anthony Foley takes over from Rob Penney as Munster's head coach.
Anthony Foley takes over from Rob Penney as Munster's head coach.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

ANTHONY FOLEY IS a man who knows exactly what it takes to secure victory in the European club sphere, having helped Munster to Heineken Cup titles in 2006 and 2008, as well as reaching two other finals in the same competition.

European rugby has turned the page with the introduction of the Rugby Champions Cup, and, similarly, Munster move into a new era with the appointment of Foley as head coach in place of the departed Rob Penney.

The former Ireland international will need to call on all of his rugby knowledge and European nous next season as his side face a testing pool against what Foley refers to as “fearsome opposition.”

Munster have been drawn alongside Saracens, Clermont and Sale Sharks in Pool 1 of the new competition, meaning three of the 2013/14 Heineken Cup semi-finalists are in a single group.

“We have picked up three of the best teams in Europe in our pool and looking at the rest of the tournament I think this is an even stronger draw than in previous years,” Foley told the EPCR, before pointing out that his side were one Sarries and Clermont would likely have preferred to avoid.

Anthony Foley Foley will retain control over some of the technical elements of Munster's training next season. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“We have six massive games ahead of us and we will be looking to them all. I’m sure there are a few teams who won’t be too happy about having Munster in their pool.

“We have met them all before in Europe and I’m sure our fans will travel in big numbers to Manchester, London and Clermont. And if Saracens fancy taking our game to Wembley, then that will be fine with us.”

Mark McCall’s side moved their home Heineken Cup pool fixture against Toulouse to the 90,000-capacity stadium last October, although they were beaten 17-16 at the famous venue.

Foley believes his players would “love to” play in a bigger stadium than Sarries’ Allianz Park. From a personal point of view, the 40-year-old is excited by the prospect of leading his home province in Europe, while he has already identified areas for improvement.

Having grown up at the club it is going to be a huge honour for me to coach the team next season. I certainly won’t be underestimating the size of the task, but we have a good group of players which has been around for a while.

“We want to be playing in the big finals in May and to do that we are going to have to stop teams scoring easy points against us. We need to rectify that, especially when it comes to playing in the Champions Cup.”

Foley: ‘If you don’t have the core skills, there’s no point in having an overall philosophy’

Here are the pools for the 2014/15 European Rugby Challenge Cup

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Murray Kinsella

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