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# Axel
'It will always be the case when we come across this fixture that I’ll think of Axel'
A return to the Aviva Stadium has Leo Cullen and Rassie Erasmus reflecting on the one-year anniversary of Anthony Foley’s passing.

A FIXTURE STEEPED in history and tradition, and Leo Cullen says Leinster-Munster interpro derbies will now carry an added poignancy 12 months on from the untimely passing of Anthony Foley.

Leo Cullen Gary Carr / INPHO Leo Cullen and Rassie Erasmus at yesterday's Pro14 launch. Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

The two provinces meet in Saturday’s Pro14 clash at the Aviva Stadium, one day short of a year since the corresponding fixture last season which we now know was inexplicably Foley’s last as part of the Munster coaching team.

“It’s eerie,” Cullen says. “Obviously with Axel last year, that was the last time I saw him alive so it brings back amazing thoughts really.

“Obviously our thoughts are with his family at this time. It will always be the case when we come across this fixture that I’ll think of Axel.”

The Leinster head coach is expecting Munster to be galvanised by the occasion, as a return to the Aviva to face their provincial rivals stirs up the painful memories associated with this time last year.

“I presume this week will have a real galvanising affect on them,” he continued. “I presume they’re going through all those memories themselves this week which won’t be easy. You could see the affect it had on them last year as a group.

“Axel was always somebody I looked up to and admired, he was number eight on the Irish schools team in ’92, I was number eight on the Irish schools in ’96.

“He made his debut for Ireland in 1995, and I remember the try he scored against England in Lansdowne Road when England won 20 points to eight and he went on obviously to play for Munster and captained them to lift the European trophy in 2006.

“Someone I always looked up to and admired, it’s hard to believe he’s not here any more.
But what they’re going through will be easy in comparison to what they’ve been through. It’s hard to believe he’s no longer with us.”

Erasmus says his players still regularly talk about Foley, ensuring that his legacy and presence within the environment and dressing room remains a constant.

Ireland subtitutes ©INPHO Cullen lining up alongside Foley ahead of Ireland's Test against USA in 2004. ©INPHO

“They will always talk about Axel in different ways and some things we mould around him,” the South African said.

“Some individuals might [on Saturday] but we try and keep him in it as much as possible instead of ‘thinking oh it’s this game.’

“For me personally I will remember that game. Certain things happened that week, ,even that game after we lost I remember certain things he said to me.

“For me personally it will come back but I think the players have a real good way of always keeping him involved. It won’t come as a shock, we talk enough about him.”

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Meanwhile, Munster have revealed sales of the special commemorative programme for the province’s first home game after Foley’s passing last October has raised €39,000, with a percentage of the proceeds going to charitable causes and funds nominated by Olive Foley and family.

On the day of the Glasgow Warriors game at Thomond Park, unprecedented demand for the programme saw it sell out 30 minutes before kick-off.

The funds raised will be donated to Sister Helen Culhane and the Children’s Grief Centre in Limerick, while a number of local community initiatives in Killaloe, including Tony and Dan Foley’s National Boys School, will also benefit.

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