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Hanrahan desperate for opportunity to make major impact with Munster


By Cian Tracey

Rarely has such an exciting, young, home-grown player left these shores to such a cacophony of dissatisfaction as what JJ Hanrahan's move to Northampton drew from Munster supporters.

For years, the hope throughout the province was that Hanrahan would be the eventual heir to Ronan O'Gara's throne, but rugby doesn't always work out as planned.

Being shifted across the back-line, Hanrahan grew frustrated at his lack of game-time at out-half and eventually made a brave decision that he hoped would improve him as a player, before returning to Munster for a second chance.

After two years in the Premiership, the second of which was blighted by injury, the 25-year-old is back where he belongs, but so far he has encountered the familiar problems of old.

With Tyler Bleyendaal currently out of action, many might have expected Hanrahan to slot into the starting XV, but such has been Ian Keatley's renaissance, the Currow native has had limited opportunities in the pivot position.

Hanrahan returned from Northampton with a shoulder injury that delayed his second debut with his home province until late in September but, nevertheless, three starts from 15 games this season is not what he had envisaged.

Just two of those starts came at out-half and, when you consider that they were against teams second last in their respective Guinness PRO14 conferences, you would be forgiven for assuming that it has been a difficult homecoming for Hanrahan, yet that's not how he is looking at it.

"I wouldn't say it has been frustrating," he explains.

"The main thing for me is that coming back with a shoulder injury I was out for the bones of six months and I suppose I missed the first five games of the season.

"I was just trying to find my feet early days and you can't expect really to walk into this team.

"So for me it is just grafting every day and keeping my head down and just trying to work on."

Hanrahan is likely to get another chance away to Ulster on New Year's Day and, if he does, he knows that he is under pressure to perform.

The arrival of Johann van Graan has wiped the slate clean for everyone, but for someone like Hanrahan, desperate to impress, you get the feeling he has relished having a new man at the helm more than others.

"I suppose every time a new coach comes in it is more stuff to learn," he maintains.

"It's a different voice, a different point of view on rugby, and you can just pick up little nuggets all along the way. It all helps you get better."

Hanrahan only got nine minutes to impress against Leinster earlier this week but he is eyeing a starting berth in Belfast.

"It is not easy up there," he adds. "The Kingspan can be a hostile enough place, but it is a challenge you have to relish."

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