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Hanrahan hopes re-shaped leadership group can lead to more Munster progress

‘Johann was brilliant in that he stepped back and handed it to the players.’

Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

MUNSTER OUT-HALF JJ Hanrahan hopes the squad’s re=styled, self-appointed leadership group will help to ‘bring the team to new places we haven’t been before’.

The province has been in rude health this season. Their first loss in the campaign came away to Ulster on Saturday, a fortnight on from their remarkable high watermark, a momentous comeback win in Clermont.

It was in the wake of that victory that Billy Holland, when asked to pinpoint one positive change in the club, told Donal Lenihan in an Irish Examiner interview:

“Over lockdown the leadership group within Munster had a good look at ourselves, we all had periods of self-reflection and decided that we weren’t doing what we needed to do as a group.”

It was more than just a reshuffle of personnel. The method and manner of appointment changed. Hanrahan praises head coach Johann van Graan for allowing the playing staff that ownership that way.

“Johann was brilliant in that he stepped back and handed it to the players to decide their own leadership group,” said the out-half.

“As Billy said before, it could have been anyone from the oldest member of the squad to the newest member of the squad, it was what the squad perceived as leaders based on certain categories. For example, growth mindset, team first…”

Hanrahan adds: “Through a course of meetings, early in pre-season and along with the head coaches and a few other people, we developed our leadership style and were very open with each other and tried to drive on from that and try and bring the team to new places we haven’t been before.”

Places like a winning dressing room in Stade Michelin. An unlikely scenario in any circumstance, let alone from 19 points down. Were the redesigned leadership group’s traits on display that day?

“We definitely spoke a lot about on field leadership and, I suppose, the formation of the way we speak, who speaks at what time.

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“Not quite military precision, but certain individuals have certain roles: how to forget stuff that happens bad in games, how to refocus and get back on task.

“If you see someone made a mistake, how do you deal with that versus letting them dwell in their own head?

“Steve and Johann have added a lot to that. When we’re on the field, they can give us messages but ultimately we’re the ones on the field making decisions and reacting to stuff. So we have to be able, as a group, make the right decisions at the right time.”

“(In Clermont) we had a chat under the posts and we said to each other it was going to be a high-scoring game, just stick with it and we’ll come out the other end of it if we stay in the battle, which we did.”

That sort of result is something that can fuel belief and underpin a team’s values long after the whistle goes and even beyond the parameters of a single season. For Hanrahan, who scored 24 of Munster’s 39 points in Clermont, the lesson learned is that rewards come for the brave.

“My own mentality going into that game was just attack everything. As a 10 I suppose a lot of the time it’s around your mentality and how you go into the game. When you’re playing in France you know it’s a tough place to win but personally, yeah, just attack everything.”

The form Connacht are in approaching tomorrow’s inter-pro clash in Galway, Hanrahan will get another chance to prove he can attack everything, lead and win in hostile territory.

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Sean Farrell

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