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Dublin: 19 °C Tuesday 29 July, 2014

“He understands the Munster way”: Simon Easterby backs Axel for top job

The former Ireland international will pit his forwards coaching wits against Anthony Foley this weekend as the Reds face Scarlets.

David Wallace, Anthony Foley, Keith Wood and Frankie Sheahan celebrate after a European Cup semi-final in 2000
David Wallace, Anthony Foley, Keith Wood and Frankie Sheahan celebrate after a European Cup semi-final in 2000
Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

SIMON EASTERBY LAUGHS as he is asked for a favourite memory of his playing battles against Munster. “How long have you got,” he remarks.

Easterby, now forwards coach with Welsh side Scarlets, played alongside Munster greats such as Keith Wood, Paul O’Connell and Mick Galwey in many of his 65 caps for Ireland.

The 36-year-old, who earned two caps with the British & Irish Lions in 2005, has also had the “pleasure” of playing with and against Anthony ‘Axel’ Foley.

This weekend, and for the fourth time this season, Easterby and Foley will put their personally coached forward packs up against each other and the Scarlets man is eager to snap a losing trend.

Easterby told The Score, “We have had three massive games against Munster already this season and have yet to get a result. We are not owed anything in this game. We were well in both Heineken Cup (pool) games but were beaten by a team that are able to close out tight games.”

The Munster mentality

Foley has been interviewed for the head coach position at Munster that Tony McGahan will vacate at the end of the season.

Anthony Foley and Simon Easterby team up to tackle France’s Nicolas Brusque. (©INPHO/Patrick Bolger)

While All Black legend Tana Umaga and Canterbury coach Rob Penney have also been spoken to about the top spot, Easterby believes the solution lies with Foley. He said:

I have no doubt that he would do a fine job. Axel was an uncompromising and physical and has taken that on into his coaching career. The traits of Anthony Foley come through. He knows the Munster way.

The recently retired flanker adds that he has been heartened by the return to action of Munster’s David Wallace, who has resumed playing duties after the knee injury that ended his World Cup hopes last August.

Top four ambitions

Scarlets enter their home match to Munster with a genuine hope of cracking the top four and securing a play-off spot. Easterby commented:

We’re at home on Saturday and against Ospreys so it can be done. It is not beyond the realms of possibility to get into the top four.

The forwards coach believes Ulster’s quarter-final win over Munster at Thomond Park should be the template Scarlets need to beat the visitors.

“Ulster were effective at the breakdown, without the ball, and Munster struggled to get over the gainline,” said Easterby. “Stephen Ferris was excellent as a nuisance factor – I will be getting the lads to study the video of how he played.”

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