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'In Munster, there's always going to be competition' - JJ impresses at 10

The 26-year-old will be battling with Joey Carbery for the out-half slot at Munster.

EVER SINCE JOEY Carbery’s move to Munster was confirmed, the talk has been about how he can potentially change their game and take the province to the next level.

The presumption in most quarters has been that Carbery will be wearing Munster’s number 10 shirt on the big occasions this season.

It’s certainly a fair point of view, given how Carbery is Ireland’s second-choice out-half behind Johnny Sexton and made the move to Munster on the premise that he would gain plenty of exposure in the number 10 shirt – which he wasn’t getting at Leinster.

JJ Hanrahan scores a try Hanrahan scores a try against the Cheetahs. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

But for the other out-halves in Munster’s squad – JJ Hanrahan, Ian Keatley, Bill Johnston and the currently injured Tyler Bleyendaal – Carbery won’t be stepping into the starting out-half role without a fight.

26-year-old Hanrahan had the first shot in Munster’s 10 shirt this season, as he started yesterday’s 38-0 win over the Cheetahs and delivered an impressive performance.

Asked what it has been like for him with all the chat around Carbery in recent times, Hanrahan indicated that he intends to put his best foot forward whenever possible. 

“It is the same thing for me as every year,” said Hanrahan. “In Munster Rugby, there is always going to be competition, no matter what position you play.

“For me, it is just about putting my head down and just focusing on myself and doing the best I can, and what will be will be.”

Hanrahan managed Munster confidently for the 53 minutes he played at out-half yesterday, providing some intelligent passes, strong communication and a handful of good kicks.

He was shifted to fullback when Carbery was introduced for his debut and shone there too, scoring a try off a Rory Scannell pass.

“Yeah, it was really enjoyable because obviously when you get to that 15 slot you have a bit more time on the ball, you have a lot more vision,” said Hanrahan, who also slotted four of his six conversions.

“When you’re at 10, your vision is here [in front], it is quite close, but when you’re at 15, you can see the whole field and pick your options and you can float in where you want, so there is a bit more freedom back there.”

Joey Carbery Carbery closed out the game at out-half. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

While the Cheetahs were poor at Thomond Park, Munster’s attack looked very sharp as they ran in six tries, showing signs of the work Johann van Graan has been able to get through in his first pre-season in charge.

“It’s awesome as a 10,” said Hanrahan of Munster’s attack. “I think the best thing for me is that I don’t have to spend half my time looking across the field organising now any more.

“The boys are really on top of it, they know their roles, know where they need to be and I can just sit back and pick the options, see where the space is. It makes my job a lot easier.”

Hanrahan and his team-mates also took pleasure in keeping the Cheetahs to nil in Limerick, though he insisted they can be more aggressive in coming off the line in defence.

Jacques Nienaber took plenty of credit for his leadership of Munster’s defence during the Rassie Erasmus era, but Hanrahan said current defence coach JP Fereira has taken over impressively since last season.

“I think a lot of what JP does is very similar to what Jacques had,” said Hanrahan.

“The main thing is that we just instill it ourselves and we bring it as players because at the end of the day we are the ones out there, so that is what we are trying to get to, the player-led stuff on the field in our defence and that is coming slowly now.

“You can see we have a few younger guys out on the outer channels.

“It is a very different story if Keith Earls is defending out there, probably one of the best in the world at reading situations, so it is about trying to get everyone to that same level, which takes time.” 

JJ Hanrahan Hanrahan slotted four conversions yesterday. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

After the positive start to the Guinness Pro14 season against the Cheetahs, Hanrahan acknowledges that a much stiffer test of Munster’s quality awaits next week.

Van Graan’s men will travel to Scotstoun to face Glasgow Warriors on Friday, with memories of last September’s 37-10 defeat there remaining fresh.

“We were there last year and we got caught, we got caught badly early on in the season, so they pose a massive physical threat,” said Hanrahan.

“They can bring a bit of heat in the wide channels and stuff like that, so we are going to have to be on top of our physicality to match them over there and even to try and dominate them.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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