Donncha O'Callaghan: 'Barbarians' Anthony Foley tribute showed how special he was'

Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent

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Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent

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Donncha O'Callaghan: 'Baa-Baas Anthony Foley tribute showed how special he was'

Donncha O'Callaghan runs out with his Barbarians team mates for their fixture against Tonga at Thomond Park

FORMER Munster second-row Donncha O'Callaghan said the Barbarians' tribute to the late Anthony Foley at Thomond Park demonstrated just how special the province's head coach was to people.

The Barbarians squad formed the figure of '8' before kick-off at Thomond Park on Friday night as a way of honouring the memory of the former Munster number eight who died suddenly 13 months ago.

O'Callaghan was introduced as a replacement in the Baa-Baas 27-24 victory over Tonga on a filthy wet night.

Former Ireland second-row O'Callaghan, who spent the first half of last week with UNICEF Ireland in Sierra Leone before jetting in to join up with the Barbarians squad the night before the game, said the idea of the tribute had come from Baa-Baas head coach Robbie Deans.

Supporters attending the international fixture warmly applauded the Barbarians players for their gesture.

O'Callaghan, captain of Worcester Warriors, said: "Look, that (tribute) was Robbie’s (Deans) call and I think people were massively respectful of it being at Thomond Park and knowing what it meant to the crowd. 

"They just wanted to do something special again and I think everyone that comes here wants to feel a part of it and show that Axel (Anthony Foley) was so special, not to just everyone around here, but everyone in world rugby and that everyone around the world thinks of him and his family. 

"I just thought it was a really nice thing. It didn’t come from the players or anything it came from management and that’s what made it a little bit special that round of applause that was a good idea."

O'Callaghan said he always enjoys playing with the Barbarians.

"It’s special, it’s like a rugby retreat. You strip all the coaching and the technical side away and you just go back to playing and having fun and loving it. 

"I think when you are around such professional environments you get used to all that and you nearly forget why you play the game and the Baa-Baas just brings it back. You play 'coz you love it. 

"You go out with 23 lads you’ve never met before and all you have in common is that you love a game. For me, I only came in last night and straight away you pick up a bond with guys. It’s really, really special."