Foley speaks of “Joy” at new role

Munster Rugby Press Conference - Wednesday 19th FebruaryAnthony Foley was announced as Munster’s new Head Coach yesterday. The former Shannon number 8 will start work on July 1st. Below are the questions put to the Foley at the media press conference yesterday. We believe, in its raw form, it makes for a better read. Enjoy.

What does it feel like to land the job?

It’s a bit surreal at the moment. It’s like it’s happening to somebody else to be honest.
We do keep ourselves busy around here. We go from week to week in our job and we’ve got new opposition coming up every week so for something like this you, it hits you. It hits you hard. Everything is a process around here and ya know it hasn’t really settled in yet and it won’t until July which is when the job start. There’s obviously a lot of stuff to be done between now and then in terms of tidying up around recruitment and tidying up around backroom staff and stuff like that for next year. That will happen over a period of time that won’t happen today or tomorrow. It’s just important that we get the right people in and we get off on the right foot in July but for me we’re in two competitions. We’re in a good place in the Rabo, we’re in a good place in the Heineken as well and it’s very important that we keep on task here and make sure that we go hard to the end of the year.

With the decision sorted so quickly, what were you thinking?

I think Rob’s position took everybody by surprise to be honest with ya and in fairness to Garett (Fitzgerald) and the Johns (Kelly and Hartery) they kept us all up to speed on what was going. Once everything became clear; it went through a process where I talked to Garret and had a review of my current position and from there they asked me would I look at taking the head coaching job. They didn’t have to ask me twice.

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Will this job consume you?

I think as a Munsterman it does anyway. It’s all part of being brought up in rugby. When I was growing up my playground was Thomond Park. That’s where I was every weekend and every Tuesday and Thursday I was in and around there training. For me that’s what I know.
Being asked to be head coach here is special. It was always special when I was captain here it was always special when I got my first cap here and playing underage here.  It’s a special time for any kid and to this point, I feel lucky. I’m going to grasp it with both hands and really go after it and try and make this as strong a club as possible.

Will there be any change in dynamic between you and Rob Penney between now and the end of the season?

No. We’re getting on with our job we have Ospreys in our sights this weekend and it will be a very tough game. We saw what they did to Treviso. As I said to you, when you’re in this environment you work from week to week and you have your process in place and you make sure you get the job done for the team in front of you. I know that sounds very boring but that’s what it is.
In order to do your job properly, you can’t get off kilter. Rob is doing a great job, look at where we are. Everybody is behind him 100%, it’s just about Ospreys next, Scarlets after that and then we get a break. Over that break we relax a small bit and take a bit of time off.

Is there anybody you’ve been thinking of as part of your backroom team?

I wouldn’t think it’s appropriate to talk about it here and now. You talk about it to those people and maybe some are in other jobs, ya don’t know. I think you keep everything to yourself and to  the committee that’s involved in that and make sure it goes through the right process and get the right people.

Did you have options elsewhere, did you feel the time was right to become head coach?

Yeah  I did. Through my career, I’ve worked with Munster U20s, I’ve worked with the A side coming through, I’ve worked with  a lot with these guys that I’m being asked to take charge from  next season on. Getting a taste of it along the way, missing out the last time ya know, it hurt. You take your learnings from that and try and improve and I’ve really enjoyed my involvement with the Wolfhounds. It really gave me a feel for having a team and I’m looking forward to next season already.
Obviously I’m not taking my eye off this season.

What is going to be your greatest strength as coach?

I think I understand where we are, I understand the continuity that is need from within, the staff I think I need to bring in to try to strengthen where we are. I understand the dual location, the double centres. I know the pitfalls there. I know all the staff at this stage and I know the majority of the playing staff so I’m in a good knowledgeable place of where we are.

Is this your dream job?

Yeah. It’s 15 minutes in the road (to work), brilliant. Fantastic. (Laughing)

Will you look outside or inside for coaching staff?

I think you  look within. We’ll look outside as well and see what’s best. You make sure that the players are challenged within this group, look at the players we have, top internationals, former captains, current captains so a lot of them need driving as well so they are driven by the best coaches.

When did you find out?

Who have been the biggest influences on your career?

Any player that comes through at Munster will speak about their club and then their school after that. Traditionally it would be their club and traditionally they would have one club. That would erk them and give them a sense of community and you see that currently in the group that we have. A lot of fellas cherish that in Munster and that is my foundation too. I would like to think that there is a lot of people happy in Shannon RFC, a lot of people very happy in Ballina/Killaloe and a lot of people very happy in St Munchin’s too. I think the likes of Steve Aboud and Willie Anderson who were involved in my early years in the foundation, that turned into the academy. The whole development of coaching in Ireland program. Colin Moran etc, they have done great work with us. It is a great program they run and you can see that from people like Mike Prendergast, Jeremy Davidson etc who you meet on the level two and level three courses. They have gone to be head coaches and assistant coaches in other countries. They seem to be doing quiet well.

Did you need to seek any advice when taking the job?

I think, taking the job, you ask yourself that question and you answer it again in five seconds. In saying that, am I going to talk to Declan Kidney in the next couple of weeks? Yes I will. Have I already spoken to Tony Mc Gahan? Yes, I have. Willl I get in touch in touch with and chat with Alan Gaffney? Yes, I will. I believe that they have been through all of this before. They know it, they understand it. Everybody has their own perspective of it. They still have a love for Munster and they still want to give back. When Munster play, whether they are watching it or catching up on twitter, they have a love for this place still. It’s just a matter of feeding off of that aswell.

What will be your Coaching/Playing Philosophy?

I always feel that your unconscious mind should be your guide out on the pitch. At the level we play at, it is very hard to think out there. You have to have a natural game and that is your club. At times we have gone away from that and we have gotten lost and we looked confused out there. At times it seems very natural to us. It is about getting that game which is very effective for us to play. It is not all forward orientated, it is not all off of nine. It is not an all encompassing kicking game. I think if I want to get more sales on my ‘Axel’ DVD, you should look at the way we played in the past. Sometimes it is about taking teams on upfront and sometimes it is all about field position, but also it is about getting the best out of the players you have on the pitch. I have played with Dougie Howlett, Rua Tipoki, Sean Payne, John Kelly, Jason Holland, Anthony Horgan etc, outstanding backs and they always gave an awful lot to Munster rugby and they always had a great appreciation of the game. I think, I am not going to put us into a bracket, I just want us to play the best game that we can for the players that we have. While doing that, I think it becomes a very effective game. A game that becomes hard to penetrate and breakdown.

What were your immediate first thoughts?

I think we had to decide on whether we (CEO Garrett Fitzgerald) were meeting in Mitchelstown or Charleville. That was the main issue at that stage. Whether I had to walk over and meet him, it didn’t matter. Joy, I suppose. It is a fulfillment. It was something you wanted and now that it is there, it starts in July and I have to do the job to the best of my ability. It will be the same philosophy I had as a player. What is my job? How can I get it done? Who do I need to get it done with? Who can help me? Making sure that we are doing it at a level we can win games at.

Will there be pressure?

Always. Isn’t that where you are judged. You can shy away from it. You have to stand up to it. I think we have shown over a period of time in Munster that when it is put to us we stand up, so hopefully I show that in the way I coach as well.

What about the players you played with who remain with Munster?

Paul O’Connell, Donncha O’Callaghan, Donnacha Ryan, Denis Hurley and Keith Earls, there is a few. I spoke to Paul, I speak to Paul quiet a bit. Have I sat down and had a chat with a group of them yet? No. I have not. I don’t think that is the right time or place. We are in the middle of two campaigns and we know that we are not guaranteed anything now or for next season, so we need to focus on now.

Were you happy to see former players giving you an endorsement? (Mick Galway)

It is costing me a fortune in beer. I worked with Mick for the Munster ‘A’ side. Mick would have great affinity and affection with these guys. We lost a B&I Cup. That hurt us all. To be involved still and back in around it with a good core of those players is a good thing. It will be interesting to see where we can take it. Mick is a legend in himself. We all like his company. We like having him around and having his support. He is a good man.

Will fans see the ‘Dream team’ of Foley and O’Gara?

As I mentioned before. Backroom staff will be talked about at a later stage. As I alluded to, fellas are in contracts and you don’t know who wants the job, who is ready to come in and that is something we need to discuss at a later date. I don’t think that today is either the time or the place.