Under the Sticks: Holley talks Munster close call and Saracens test

Andy Baber
06 December 2019

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All eyes will be focused on Europe this weekend as Guinness PRO14 teams resume their assault on the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup with some tantalising match-ups.

With that in mind, the latest Under the Sticks podcast gets the lowdown on what to expect from the Round 3 games from former Ospreys coach and Premier Sports analyst Sean Holley.

Holley highlights the visit of reigning European champions Saracens to Munster, who lost to the English outfit in their semi-final last season, as the encounter he is looking forward to most.

He also discusses how he nearly joined the Irish province after receiving a call from former coach Anthony ‘Axel’ Foley, who sadly passed away in October 2016.

And Holley, who expects the Thomond Park faithful to provide Munster with the edge against Saracens, admits it was one of the hardest decisions he ever made to turn down Foley.

“Axel was a great bloke, we all miss him,” he said. “You should never have regrets in life but he phoned me once to go and be the attack coach at Munster and I couldn’t go for family reasons.

“I would have loved to have worked with Axel, he epitomises everything Munster is about. I think Saturday, a European evening, 5.30pm kick off in Munster, is what it’s all about.

“I’ve been there [Thomond Park] for pool matches, I’ve been there for quarter-finals and they are electric, it’s the sort of environment you want to be involved in.

“And Saracens, you have to say, in adversity are the team to go over there. If they’ve got something to prove, their backs are up because of all the publicity then Munster need to be aware.

“But there is no more difficult place to go in European rugby than Munster, they have that extra man, they have that crowd and it gets to you.

“You can’t even chew your chewing gum when someone is taking a kick as someone will turn around and say ‘shush’ and the Saracens fans will get that – but it’s definitely game of the week.

“With my Celtic hat on, with my Guinness PRO14 hat on, I would love to see Munster win it but I think this one could go down to the wire.”

Under The Sticks – Delivering a broad mix of views and opinions, exclusive interviews with players & coaches, insights from key media figures and the chance to win match tickets each week – Under The Sticks wants to be your rugby podcast of choice.

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Going into more detail about his decision not to join Munster, Holley said everyone only ever had good things to say about Foley and that he felt bad for letting him down.

“It’s like turning Man United down, you feel you should go, you feel you have to go but I had a young family and I was pretty set with the Ospreys,” he continued.

“You shouldn’t have regrets, hindsight is a wonderful thing and I would have loved to have done it.

“I taught Aled Walters many, many years ago who went on to be the conditioning coach at Munster and was now the Springboks’ conditioning coach.

“Talking to him, he said it was a magical part of his time but it wasn’t meant to be for me. Everything happens for a reason but the conversation is a difficult one.

“Axel was the type of bloke you just didn’t want to let down. That was regretful but I’ll raise a glass a Guinness for him this weekend and let’s hope the Munstermen can do it.”

Cardiff City Stadium will play host to the 2020 Guinness PRO14 Final on June 20 as one of the most exciting days in the club rugby calendar comes to Wales!

General sale tickets are available from http://bit.ly/PRO14Cardiff2020 and prices start at just £13 for concessions and £26 for adults (subject to booking fees), that’s a 15% early bird discount. Family ticket (2 adults / 2 children) prices begin at £64 and fans are encouraged to buy early to get the best value tickets.

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