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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 9 April, 2020

Foley says he hasn't met Munster's new director of rugby Erasmus yet

The southern province’s head coach appeared to be put out by the appointment.

CERTAINLY IF ONE was to judge Anthony Foley’s feelings about the appointment of Rassie Erasmus as Munster’s director of rugby based on his answers to questions about the South African yesterday, one would have to think he’s not too happy.

Rather than beginning yesterday’s press conference in Limerick with an announcement from CEO Garrett Fitzgerald that Erasmus was coming on board, as had been widely reported, the province sent out Foley to answer questions about Friday’s crucial Guinness Pro12 clash with Edinburgh.

Anthony Foley Foley appeared to be put out by the confirmation of Erasmus' arrival. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

An embargoed press release confirming Erasmus’ appointment was distributed just moments before Foley entered the room at the Castletroy Park Hotel, and naturally questions about Edinburgh were very far from the assembled journalists’ minds.

Firstly, Foley was asked whether Erasmus had visited Munster last week to meet the staff, again as had been reported, but the former number eight branded that story as false.

“That’s all lies,” said Foley. “It is unbelievable lies.”

In a bizarre exchange, an apparently disconcerted Foley then claimed not to have met Erasmus yet and stated that he knew no more about the new director of rugby than was present on the province’s press release.

Have you met Rassie Erasmus?

“No,” said Foley.

Were you involved at all in the process?

“No,” replied the Munster head coach.

What do you think of his appointment?

“I think it’s quick. I think the PGB [Professional Game Board] have done a good job in getting someone in place as quickly as they did. That’s it.

What do you hope he will bring?

“Results. Isn’t that the hope for everyone? No, look, he has a different opinion, comes from a different way of doing it. He comes from a High Performance Unit within South Africa. He has played, worked at the highest level, so other than that I’d say ye have more information on those sheets of paper in front of ye than I do.”

How do you envisage working with him?

“We’ll see.”

Anthony Foley Munster trained in UL yesterday ahead of Friday's crucial Pro12 game. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

What’s your interpretation of what the Director of Rugby role entails?

“I have asked that question and it’s what the person makes of if, so that is something ye can talk to Garrett about.”

Will you definitely be working with him next year?

“I have a contract here, yeah. It’s no big deal. My whole focus is Edinburgh. This is all happening literally in the background, maybe the forefront for other people, but for us the most important thing for Munster is Edinburgh in Cork on Friday night.

“To be honest, it was said to the players this morning, it was done and dusted in 30 seconds and move on. No questions. We have a massive game on Friday night. That is the most important thing for us.”

Asked directly if he had been put out by the appointment of Erasmus as director of rugby on a three-year deal, Foley insisted that his only thoughts were of that decisive clash with Edinburgh in Musgrave Park.

“No, I’m fine,” said Foley. “I’m put out by the fact that we have a s**t-or-get-off-the-pot game against Edinburgh on Friday night and I’m talking about something that is going to happen in July.

“In fairness to Garrett and all the people involved in it, they haven’t imposed anything on us in terms of we have to do this, that or the other thing. We have been allowed get on with our jobs and that is the way we have been.

“Since the Connacht game we have been chewing over the fat around Edinburgh, making sure that we are properly prepared. Alan Solomons has a very good side, a very strong, physical side… We have a lot on our plate this week. Trust me, the lad coming in, hopefully he’s brilliant, comes in and we have a great time together.

Anthony Foley Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“You only have a great time if you win. It is important for us to make sure we’re in a position that we can play European Cup rugby next year under the new regime.”

Foley said that the speculation around the director of rugby role, his own future and the subsequent confirmation of Erasmus’ appointment had not been a distraction for Munster as they face into the Edinburgh tie.

It has been confirmed that Ian Costello and Mick O’Driscoll will leave the province this summer, while Brian Walsh and Jerry Flannery’s futures remain unresolved, but Foley says the current coaching ticket has remained focused on the matter at hand.

“I am working with people the whole time,” said Foley. “We weren’t the greatest people in the world when we got to the final of the Pro12 last season, we are not the worst people in the world at the moment.

“As with players, there is a balancing act with everything and sport has a lot of ups and downs. That’s the nature of it.

“We just need to keep a very balanced view on what and who we are and make sure we get the best out of people. It is a tough place for everyone to be. Back in October we were top of the pile, come now we are sitting in seventh spot. You scratch your head and wonder why, you go through it and get as many reports as you want, understand why. But we are where we are and we need to figure it out, get a result on Friday night.”

– First published 06.00

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Murray Kinsella

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