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Munster aim to pay tribute to Foley with performance on return to Paris
Hooker Niall Scannell says Axel remains at the forefront of his mind, even during games.

MUNSTER HOOKER NIALL Scannell says the best tribute they can make to Anthony Foley tomorrow is to produce a performance which their former coach would be really proud of.

Scannell, who made his Pro12 debut in December 2013 when Foley was forwards coach and who was then handed his first Champions Cup experience just over a year ago when the late coach was at the helm, said this will be an emotional weekend.

Munster fans gather to pay tribute to Anthony Foley the Munster head coach who passed away during the night James Crombie / INPHO Stade Yves du Manoir holds difficult memories for Munster. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

But the 24-year old said Munster can’t allow their return to Paris for the first time since Foley’s sudden death in October to impact on their primary job of defeating Racing 92 and remaining on course for a quarter-final place in the Champions Cup.

“I think in fairness, we have had to deal with a lot of things emotionally this season,” said Scannell.

“As a group, we have gotten through those things together. I feel like if we stick to the process, like we do for every other Champions Cup game, then we just need to keep the rugby and the performance at the forefront of our minds.

“You don’t know what way it is going to go for us over there. Obviously, it will be strange but it is about the performance really now. We need to stick to the routine and focus on the rugby when we get over there,” said Scannell, who has now chalked up 45 appearances for Munster.

He explained that, like the rest of the Munster players and management, Foley is never far from their thoughts since the shocking news emerged on the morning of 16 October, just as they were preparing for the match against Ronan O’Gara’s Racing side.

The eventual rescheduling of this match will mark another milestone in how Munster deal with the death of their former captain and coach, but Scannell is not sure if there will be any element of closure this weekend.

Niall Scannell 26/12//2016 Tommy Dickson / INPHO Scannell has been in excellent form this season. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

“I don’t know really. I suppose everyone deals with these things kind of differently. For me anyway, it is still the smaller things.

“Like, even sometimes in a game, when you make a mistake or you do something well, you would be thinking, ‘Jesus, he (Axel) is going to hammer me for that now!’

“Those are the things which are not going to go away quickly. Everyone will deal with that differently. Those are the kind of things which make you think of him alright. We will try and not make it too much of an emotional trip, going over there, but I’m sure it will be strange.

“I think it was Felix Jones who said it to me getting on the plane in Paris; ‘This will probably always be the thing you think of when you come to Paris, forever more’ and that is probably true.

“So, it is just about focusing on the rugby side of things now and performing at the weekend. That is the most important thing now. We need to make the performance a tribute to the occasion as opposed to letting it bog us down,” added the former Ireland U20 captain.

Scannell believes Munster can’t take anything for granted against a Racing side who reached the final of the Champions Cup last season, but who are out of contention having lost all three pool games to date this term.

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Munster fans gather to pay tribute to Anthony Foley the Munster head coach who passed away during the night Billy Stickland / INPHO Munster fans will be back in Paris this weekend. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“We are only half way through out campaign too of course, so we cannot be thinking about other teams to be honest.

“I think with the team they have, looking back at their most recent team sheets, I don’t really see how they could really pick a ‘weakened’ team to be honest. They have so much depth and quality.

“That they could be ‘weakened’ would not really be in our mentality to be fair. It is all about our jobs and what we need to do over in Paris.”

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