'Putting my stamp on playing my game - that's been the biggest difference'
At the age of 28, JJ Hanrahan is comfortable in knowing what his game is all about.

BEING COMPARED TO other out-halves is something JJ Hanrahan has had to get used to in Munster, whether it’s been the province’s greatest number 10 of the professional era or, now, a younger man who simply has no luck when it comes to injuries.

To be fair, it’s part and parcel of the game. Every player finds themselves in direct comparison whether they’re the incumbent, rising star, potential usurper, or squad cover.

Perhaps Hanrahan struggled with what others were thinking and saying during his younger years, as would only be natural, but he comes across as a man very content in his own skin at the ripe old age of 28.

Most importantly, the Kerry man has more confidence in what kind of player he is than ever before. 

jordan-larmour-and-jj-hanrahan-shake-hands-after-the-game Bryan Keane / INPHO Hanrahan shakes hands with Jordan Larmour last weekend. Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

“Being honest, I knew what I was about for a long time and it is probably just having more belief in what I am about as opposed to trying to play different styles and games,” said Hanrahan this week ahead of tomorrow’s Pro14 clash with Connacht [KO 3pm, eir Sport, deferred coverage on TG4 at 5.30pm].

“It’s more just like putting my stamp on playing my game – that’s probably been the biggest difference, to be honest.”

With 122 Munster caps under his belt during his two spells with his native province, split by a two-year stint in Northampton, Hanrahan has plenty of experience to draw upon as he now finds himself as the senior out-half in Johann van Graan’s squad.

With Joey Carbery sidelined indefinitely, Hanrahan is very much the man steering the ship as Munster aim to win a Pro14 trophy in two weekends’ time. 

Last weekend’s defeat to Leinster was frustrating as Munster restarted their 2019/20 season but the southern province have been viewing the performance as positive.

“Looking at the game as a whole there were, I suppose, a few more positives than negatives,” said Hanrahan.

“There was definitely a bit of anxiety in the week in terms of being out for so long, not having played a game, there was definitely that bit of nervousness.

“You are up against one of the best teams in Europe so you are kinda thinking, ‘How is that going to go?’ It’s not your usual pre-season friendly down in Irish Independent Park, so it was very different in that aspect.

jj-hanrahan-celebrates-scoring-a-late-try James Crombie / INPHO Hanrahan has made 122 appearances for Munster. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“Overall, I thought as a group we did quite well. We executed a lot of stuff that we spoke about that we wanted to do.

“There were a couple of elements in the game we could have done better for sure. We spoke about that and hopefully we can set them right going forward. But it has been a good start.

“I think the most enjoyable thing for us is that it has been the first block where we’ve had all the international lads in, all the provincial lads in at the same time, Steve [Larkham] and JP [Ferreira] and Wig [Graham Rowntree] have all gotten to put their stamp on what we really want to do for an extended period of time.

“So we have all kinda felt the most aligned we felt over an eight-week period as opposed to the [international] lads coming in for two to three weeks and expecting to play at a high level and understand everything, which has been really good.”

If Munster secure their Pro14 semi-final spot this weekend, they will get another crack at top dogs Leinster, who will expect to improve notably on their performance in last weekends’ 27-25 victory.

It might have been a draw but for Hanrahan’s late conversion attempt slipping wide to the right of the posts, one of the few negatives in a performance in which the out-half kicked superbly otherwise.

Based purely on raw percentages, Hanrahan is the most successful Irish goal-kicker in the Pro14 this season with a 90% return from his 50 shots at goal across the 2019/20 campaign.

Indeed, he believes that goal-kicking is the greatest area of improvement in his game over the course of his professional career, while Munster senior coach Larkham praised this area of Hanrahan’s skillset this week.

jj-hanrahan-takes-a-kick Dan Sheridan / INPHO Hanrahan takes a shot at goal at the Aviva Stadium. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

So Hanrahan won’t lose much sleep over missing a conversion attempt last time out.

“The only thing I would have said is that I probably could have taken a bit more time, got my breath more – there was quite a long passage of play leading into it,” he said by way of analysing the miss.

“Get full focus on it. Yeah, looking back on it there were a few technical issues in the kick itself, but they are easy fixes.”

Renowned for being a student of the game, Hanrahan will have broken down the rest of his game as analytically over the past week and will hope to take another step forward tomorrow against Connacht.

With Damian de Allende and Chris Farrell outside him, Hanrahan said “there is definitely a lot we can do with that midfield” before underlining that Munster have plenty of other good centres besides that pair.

It’s a little bit of insight into Hanrahan’s ever-growing sense of ownership within the Munster squad.

He’s a senior man now, tasked with guiding those around him.

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