CJ Stander has spoken about how his recent Six Nations trip to Paris with Ireland left him vividly remembering the late Anthony Foley, the Munster coach who tragically passed away in the French capital city four years ago.
Last Friday, the night before Ireland took on France in the 2020 Six Nations finale, would have been Foley’s 47th birthday and it wasn’t lost on Stander how he was staying with the Irish squad in a hotel close to the Arc de Triomphe just a 5km walk from the hotel at Pont de Suresnes where Foley and the Munster squad were staying on that tragic October 2016 weekend.
Casting his mind back to that awful Sunday morning when Munster learned that Foley had died in his sleep overnight prior to a European match at Racing 92, Stander told the Irish Daily Star: “My biggest thing was the family, to see if someone was really struggling and have a conversation with them because there was that uncertainty.
“No-one knew what was going on. There were people around, people were running, people were crying, it was almost like a war zone. That’s probably not the right words to use but there was confusion everywhere so I just wanted to make sure everyone was understanding what was going on and that there was no uncertainty.
“When you get to a situation like that there are so many people with different personalities so I tried to figure how every person ticked and what I could do for them to make them feel comfortable.
In the hour of his greatest triumph, Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus remembered his late Munster colleague Anthony Foley https://t.co/TMUvPcg7zK
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 5, 2019
“That was the main thing, especially with Axel’s dad, Brendan, and he had a few friends that came to the hotel. I just wanted to make sure that they at least had a cup of coffee. It’s probably just a thing I would like to happen for me if something like that happens in my family.”
Stander added: “That void was a difficult thing to fill and to move on from because you see pictures of him and you talk to people about him, and especially working closely with him the last few years. Still to this day, talking to Olive (Foley’s widow) and seeing his sisters and his mum and dad, it’s a tough thing to talk about because you see them and you want to talk about him, and you want to celebrate him.
“For me anyway there’s still that void, as if almost he’s going to walk around the corner today, he’s going to walk into the room. He was a massive big, big loss for me personally and for the province in general. He was a class act and a class man.
“It’s not even the day we think about him, for me especially, we talk about him, he pops up in a few conversations during the year as well, and it just shows the calibre of the man.”
"I had never seen them in my life. This man pulls them out of his bag as if it is nothing. That bag was a bag of tricks"https://t.co/1ZFNIqZsif
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 4, 2020
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