'If we never do anything else in rugby after this, it was worth it for that game' 1 month ago

'If we never do anything else in rugby after this, it was worth it for that game'

"Myself and Felix Jones said to each other, 'If we never do anything else in rugby after this, that was worth it for that game'."

Jerry Flannery opened up, this week, about how tough it was for all involved at Munster Rugby when, in October 2016, head coach Anthony Foley passed away, aged 43.

Munster were due to play Racing 92 in Paris when, on Sunday, October 16, Foley was discovered dead in his hotel room. He had died in his sleep after suffering an acute pulmonary oedema. Munster's match against the French side was postponed but, six days later and a day after Foley's funeral in Killaloe, they took on Glasgow Warriors in the European Cup, and won.

Flannery and Jones were part of the Munster coaching staff for that match and both men joined in a massive Munster circle, on the pitch, that sang the club song 'Stand Up And Fight' in the company of Foley's sons, Dan and Tony.

In the lead-up to that match, on October 19, Munster captain Peter O'Mahony and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus fronted up for a press briefing that attempted to pay tribute to Foley and stress that the team were intent on fulfilling that Glasgow fixture.

O'Mahony and Erasmus were clearly struggling to cope, during that briefing, but they spoke remarkably well. Close to tears, O'Mahony paid tribute to 'the man, the friend, the coach and the brother' and vowed that all involved at Munster would do all they could to support the bereaved Foley family.

Sitting down for a wide-ranging chat with Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby - the full interview will be on Monday's show - O'Mahony reflects on an unfathomably tough period for Munster and the Foley family.

"It's definitely the toughest thing I've ever done with regard to being a professional person in the media spotlight. It's the hardest 20 minutes I've ever had to do, but that's not something everyone has to do, fortunately. It's not something I ever want to do again, to be honest.

"That's just part of the job role, that we needed to do that. As you said, I was lucky enough to spend a huge amount of time with him. That meant I could speak properly about it and speak from the heart."

On House of Rugby (UK), Flannery recalled the raw, powerful moments that permeated the club, province and country in the days and weeks after Foley's passing.

"Rassie said to us before the game, he said, 'Listen, ye buried your head coach today'.

"Playing for Munster is a privilege. It's not a burden. He said, 'You've had the hardest week you'll ever have in your lives. Go out and play'.

"And to see the players play like that, and the support that was there, it was incredible. I still can't articulate or put to words what it meant."

Three weeks after Munster beat Glasgow 38-17, four of their squad were in the Ireland matchday 23 when they took on New Zealand at Soldier Field. Ireland met the All Blacks' Haka with another poignant tribute to Foley, assembling in a figure '8' - the number Foley wore for Shannon, Munster and Ireland.

O'Mahony would feature twice for Ireland that month but he missed out on the country's first ever Test win over the All Blacks. On that Foley tribute, he comments:

"I watched it at home. I was very proud, you know.

"The lads told me what the plan was and seeing the Munster lads up the front, it was a nice touch. Joe came up and said it to the lads. It was a lovely touch, but there were a lot of occasions where we could pay our respects with a bit of a tribute. That was a very special one."

There would be another special day in Thomond Park, a week after Ireland beat New Zealand, when Munster defeated a travelling New Zealand Maori XV.

"We had some lads going out there," Flannery says, "in the squad, that hadn't played two games for Munster. Some had never played, and they went out and beat the New Zealand Maoris... I loved the fact that guys that might never play for Munster again, they go in, put on the jersey and beat the New Zealand Maori. That's it, they're in. They're in Munster history forever."

October 16 will mark three years since the passing of Foley. When that date comes around, Munster will be well back into their 2019/20 season while Ireland will hopefully be preparing for a World Cup quarter final.

Life moves ever on, but Foley's presence and the values he lived by, remain strong with those that crossed his path.

Subscribe here to Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby: https://playpodca.st/house-of-rugby-ie

Barry Murphy returns on Monday, August 19 and joins Andrew Trimble and Jerry Flannery in studio, while the show will feature the full Peter O'Mahony interview.

Peter O'Mahony has been announced as a M&S ambassador ahead of the Rugby World Cup. (Credit: INPHO)