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Published: 09:02 | 17/10/16

Rugby pays tribute to Foley

Rugby stars, past and present, have paid tribute to Munster head coach Anthony Foley following his sudden death at the age of 42.

Foley passed away at the team's hotel in Paris ahead of Sunday's European Champions Cup clash with Racing 82, which was postponed at the request of Munster.

Books of condolences have been opened around the county to allow members of the public to offer their sympathies to the Foley family.

Commenting on Foley's tragic death, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt said: Over the past few seasons I've had the opportunity to work closely with Axel. His insights on the game and good-natured banter ensured he was always great company.

"He was incredibly supportive of Munster squad members selected for national duty and immensely proud of any Munster man who pulled on the green jersey. He is a huge loss to both Munster and Irish Rugby."

IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne added: "The Irish Rugby family has lost a special individual and all our thoughts are with his family at this very sad time. Anthony represented Ireland with distinction and will be fondly remembered for his contribution in the green of Ireland and the red of Munster."

Racing 92 coach Ronan O'Gara played alongside Foley at Munster and he took to Twitter several hours after the news broke to pay tribute to his former team-mate.

“Alone on the couch with Jess.Heartbroken.We have lost an incredible man. Too sad to tweet further.. sleep well Axel. We love you..xxx,” he posted on his Twitter account.

Speaking to Newstalk, former Ireland captain Keith Wood said: "I knew him since he was five of six years of age. The Foley family moved to Killaloe. They were redoing a pub at the end of our street. The whole Foley family moved into our house for about three months.

"He was a man who loved sport. He loved the town. He was shy, but sociable. Driven beyond all belief from as early an age as I remember. He was never the fittest or fastest guy, but he was the smartest guy I played on a field with. He was invariably where ever the ball was.

"He played for Clare Under-16s. He was a very capable left-sided hurler. He looked so much bigger than everyone else. He was well able to hurl. He loved it. We would have played with a lot of that Clare team that won that 1995 All-Ireland. The two of us went to the game together. It was fantastic.

"He was a one-club man. He played for Munster his whole life - that's pretty extraordinary. He didn't speak a huge amount, but everything he said was perfect. He knew the right thing to say at the right time. He knew the right thing to do at the right time. He had a wicked a dry sense of humour. The fact that we are talking about him in the past tense is surreal."

Former Munster scrum-half Peter Stringer tweeted: "Feeling numb and alone with only thoughts of this remarkable man. My protector on the field, I will miss you forever Axel. RIP."

Foley's Munster and Ireland team-mate Alan Quinlan wrote: "A true friend and mentor to so many of us. Rest in peace Axel. We've never forget you."

Current Munster and Ireland international, Simon Zebo paid trivute to his head-coach by saying: "Some incredible memories with an incredible man that will never be forgotten..Heroes get remembered, but legends never die. RIP Axel."

Former New Zealand international Dan Carter tweeted: "Still can't believe the tragic news! Thoughts to Anthony Foleys family, friends & @Munsterrugby boys."

Brian O'Driscoll captained Ireland during Foley's international career and the former Leinster player took to social media to pay tribute to the 42-year-old.

"Can't quite believe it. So incredibly sad. My thoughts are with Olive, his boys & and his extended family," O'Driscoll wrote on his Twitter account.

England international Mike Brown added: "Absolutely terrible and sad news. Thoughts are with all his family, friends and everyone at Munster."

Former Australia outside-half Michael Lynagh said: "Just received the news of Anthony Foley passing. I am shocked and saddened. He was a great rugby man; but most importantly a great person.

And former Wales captain Ryan Jones added: "Such sad sad news of @Munsterrugby 's Anthony Foley passing away - a top top man on and off the field."

Leinster rugbyy were among those to pay tribute to follow with CEO Michael Dawson saying: "The thoughts of everyone at Leinster Rugby are with Anthony Foley's family on this very sad day. Munster and Irish Rugby have lost a great captain, leader, and one of the finest young coaches in the game.

"Anthony was a fierce competitor and rival with Munster for many years, but he was a gentleman away from the field and great company.

"Anthony played with unwavering pride and passion for his province and country every time he took to the field.

"He will be deeply missed by his family, friends, and the rugby community in this country and beyond. May he rest in peace."

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