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'He's a deep thinker on the game. Mentally he's very strong'

JJ Hanrahan is set to resume the season as Munster’s starting out-half.

Updated Aug 18th 2020, 8:38 AM

EVERYONE IN IRISH rugby is hoping Joey Carbery can put his injury troubles behind him as soon as possible but Munster are heading into the resumption of rugby with JJ Hanrahan set to continue in the starting role at out-half.

With Munster saying Carbery won’t be back from his ankle and wrist injuries until next month, Hanrahan is in line to wear the number 10 shirt this weekend against Leinster and possibly for the remainder of the province’s restarted 2019/20 Pro14 season.

jj-hanrahan Hanrahan had his best season for Munster in 2019/20. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

24-year-old Carbery’s quality and further potential are clear – he has 22 Ireland caps – but Hanrahan is coming off the back of what was the best season of his Munster career before lockdown kicked in.

The Kerry man, who turned 28 last month, was highly-regarded as a young player when he first began to break through with Munster but he ended up leaving for Northampton in 2015.

He returned from that spell in England in 2017 and it wasn’t until last season that he broke into Munster’s starting side in the Champions Cup, with Carbery absent through injury. Hanrahan clearly benefited from a long run of games in the starting XV and will carry confidence into the resumption of rugby in the coming weeks.

Former Munster out-half Ronan O’Gara – who many predicted Hanrahan would succeed as the province’s long-term first-choice number 10 – was impressed with what he saw from the Currow native before rugby was put on hold.

“I can remember my last kicking session in Musgrave Park [in 2013],” says O’Gara.

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“I was assuming there was a handing over of the baton, that this was the guy who was firmly going to take the number 10 jersey.

“That was a long time ago and things haven’t worked out the way JJ wanted initially. I’ve seen great shoots in the last six months. Him going to Northampton, not getting as much game time and getting injured over there was very difficult mentally for him.

ronan-ogara Ronan O'Gara was speaking as an ambassador for Guinness. Source: Ronan O'Gara/INPHO

“Coming back, I’m not too sure he was on top of his game. I think in the last six months of rugby, I could see that he was making huge progress.

“He’s a deep thinker on the game. Mentally he’s very strong. Sometimes, in that position, if you don’t play and get rhythm, you can get paralysed by over-analysing. Now, he’s probably trusting his instincts a little bit more. He knows what works for him and he was really finding some good form when it got interrupted.

“That’s the great thing for Munster supporters, the fact is if Munster are to challenge Leinster, they’ll need Joey and they’ll need JJ.

“Rugby has changed – it’s rare that you have one fella who is out and out a starter. There’s a lot of rugby and a lot of pressure moments in a 10 jersey that from Munster’s point of view, they can nurture both of them.”

Ronan O’Gara was speaking as an ambassador for Guinness, who have collaborated with BuJo to create two limited-edition kits, one for Leinster and one for Munster, for the ultimate rugby-at-home experience, the Guinness x Bujo Home Kits. 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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