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22nd Oct 2022

“He saw the potential” – Gavin Coombes on inheriting No.8 mantle from Anthony Foley

Patrick McCarry

Gavin Coombes

“The guy is an absolute machine.”

One home win in the United Rugby Championship may not quell all the concerns around Munster Rugby, but the performances of Edwin Edogbo and Gavin Coombes certainly gave their fans something to cling to.

Last weekend’s victory over the Bulls was the first start for Edogbo and the second outing of the season for Coombes. There were other positives on the night – such as Joey Carbery starring at outhalf then fullback – but the impact of both forwards was clear to see.

On the latest House of Rugby [LISTEN from 12:35 below], hosts Greg O’Shea, Lindsay Peat and Jason Hennessy discussed the performances of Edogbo, Coombes and several other Munster lads, in recent weeks. Coombes also spoke to his former Munster teammate, Billy Holland, on his weekly sessions with the legendary Anthony Foley.

Anthony Foley was at Munster, as a player and a coach, for over two decades. (Credit: Diarmuid Greene/SPORTSFILE)

Taking on that famous No.8 jersey

“Graham Rowntree is letting the young guys play,” said Jason Hennessy. “The lad Edogbo, from Cork, this is a kid for the future.

“Shane Buckley and Keynan Knox are getting game-time… another big one was Ruadhan Quinn coming in. This guy was playing Munster Senior Cup, six month ago, and he comes out on his debut and, with his first carry, he absolutely melted one of the Zebre lads.”

Gavin Coombes is 24 but is a few steps on from players like Edogbo, Buckley and Quinn. The Cork native scored two tries against Bulls – his 23rd and 24th for the province – and was described as “an absolute machine” for his performance.

Coombes will start Saturday’s inter-provincial clash against Leinster in the No.8 jersey that is synonymous with a man that helped him in his first couple of seasons with Munster – Anthony Foley.

Ahead of the game, Coombes spoke with Holland about his weekly sessions with Foley, who recognised he had the tools to make it as a rugby pro. Holland reflected, “I remember he brought you in, as a spindly young fella from West Cork. What did Axel do for you?”

“He gave me some belief in myself,” Coombes replied. “I remember, he used to bring me into his office, once a week, and bring me through the lineouts, and tell me what I was doing well – even though he was sending me for laps around the pitch, for throwing offloads!

“He really backed me, and saw that potential. You know yourself, from chatting to him, he was really focused on what the next generation could bring. He did have a big influence, in that short period I worked with him.”

Anthony Foley scored 39 tries in his 201 games for Munster. The way Gavin Coombes is tracking, he could surpass that tally by the middle of next season.

What Coombes, and this Munster generation, wants more than most, though, is to replicate the trophy-winning deeds of the dear, departed rugby legend.