'If I don't feel I can get results there's no point in being here' - Munster's Foley

The southern province’s head coach took his side’s latest defeat heavily.

THERE WAS NO one more distraught in Stade Jean-Bouin on Saturday evening than Anthony Foley.

Anthony Foley Foley says sport has no memory of past deeds. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Only those with hearts of stone would not feel for the man on a personal level, but then professional sport has no time for sentimentality. Foley himself underlined as much in the bowels of the Parisian stadium after his Munster team exited Europe at the pool stages for a second season in a row.

Last year there was a hammering at the hands of Saracens to end the province’s knock-out dreams, but this 27-7 defeat at the hands of a Stade Français side who played 40 minutes with 14 men was humiliating.

Ronan O’Gara was in the stadium with his sons and would have felt pain at seeing his province suffering, while Alan Quinlan was audibly hurt back in Sky Sports’ studios. Multiply their anguish by about five and we might begin to understand Foley’s burden.

The simple truth is that in a results-based business, Munster have failed again. Just as damagingly, there doesn’t appear to have been real overall progress or growth over the last 18 months under Foley’s guidance.

That is true for a host of reasons, but beyond the broader – and utterly valid – questions about Munster Rugby as an organisation, this current squad is underperforming. Foley is a legend in the province and deserves respect, but he recognises that questions will have to be asked of his position as head coach.

It’s understood that Foley and Munster CEO Garrett Fitzgerald have made a verbal agreement on a one-year extension to his current contract, which expires this summer, although the deal is not believed to have been signed and sealed yet.

42-year-old Foley suggested that if he doesn’t feel he can turn this Munster squad around, then he will not seek to stay on into next season.

It’s about results and I’ve said it before and I’m clear on it: if I don’t feel I can get results there’s no point in being here,” said Foley in Paris after watching his team fold in the second half.

“I’ve been brought up through here, been here a long time, coming through the schools and everything. It’s about winning. It’s not about people, it’s about getting results.

“It doesn’t matter. Sport has no memory, no conscience, it doesn’t care. You’ve got to be able to do a job and get results.”

Anthony Foley Foley took over from Rob Penney in 2014. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Given that Munster are not getting those results, the statement comes across as Foley saying that he will consider his own position.

Is that the case?

“I’ve just answered the question. It’s about looking at everything. I do it on a weekly basis and nearly do it on a daily basis now at this stage.”

Foley’s players are clearly underperforming, whatever about the fact that the squad looks short of the quality required to compete for a Champions Cup trophy. It would be understandable if the head coach felt let down by the men he has retained faith in.

CJ Stander, Jack O’Donoghue and Rory Scannell were among a handful of individuals to emerge from Stade Jean-Bouin with credit, but Foley refused to criticise his players after another difficult evening.

“No,” said Foley when asked if he felt let down. “You look at a man there like CJ, he ran himself into the ground. There’s fellas out there… we made three substitutions in the first half, [Andrew] Conway, [BJ] Botha and Tommy O’Donnell. They’re big players; sometimes it goes for you, sometimes it goes against you.

Nobody misses tackles on purpose or anything like that. We came unstuck against a team that obviously have an opportunity to get out of this group.”

While Munster face into a second consecutive year without a European knock-out game, the province’s supporters would probably be more willing to accept the situation if there were clear signs of development from Foley’s side.

That does not quite appear to be the case, although the continuing emergence of the likes of Scannell, O’Donoghue and James Cronin are major positives.

Anthony Foley Foley was honest in his assessment of the latest blow to Munster. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Does Foley feel there has been progress since Munster’s heavy defeat to Saracens in the pool stages just over 12 months ago?

“Yeah, look, there’s a semblance of progress in terms of the way we’re trying to play and some of the personnel that are coming in and some of the guys that are growing into positions,” said Foley. “You’ve got to see where the wood is from the trees at times.”

It was a familiar story from Munster on the pitch against the Top 14 side, however, as they failed to take attacking chances and then compounded error upon error. Missed tackles, a loss of shape when in possession, poor kicking; all of these things have been present throughout the six defeats in their last seven games.

Clearly it’s hugely frustrating for Foley and his coaching team, who continue to highlight the failings and attempt to remedy them.

“I’ll be asking that same question this week,” said Foley. “It’s the same issues as we go week to week. We need to score.

In order to score you have to have possession in the right areas of the pitch and apply pressure on the opposition, otherwise it’s increasingly difficult and that is something in which we’ve come unstuck in recent times.”

When will he lose patience?

“About two weeks ago… about two weeks ago. We’ve a good group of players, a good squad, now we need to start availing of that.”

Munster flew back to Cork from Paris yesterday afternoon and return to training today before a pitch session in Limerick on Tuesday. Stade visit Thomond Park on Saturday afternoon and Foley’s message to Munster’s supporters is to the point:

“Come out and support us next week. I think it’s important that we show force and we come out and the boys will turn up and do the best they can.”

‘Talk is cheap, you need to show actions’ – Munster captain Stander

‘It was the same problems again’ – Déjà vu for Foley’s Munster in Paris

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