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Hanrahan set for Northampton switch

Munster chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald has conceded the club "are extremely disappointed" to lose JJ Hanrahan after the fly-half completed a deal to join Northampton next season.

As Munster confirmed a new two-year contract for one fly-half in Ian Keatley, Premiership champions Northampton rubber-stamped their move for fellow Thomond Park playmaker Hanrahan.

Keatley's emergence as Munster's premier fly-half this term has ushered 22-year-old Hanrahan to seek pastures new at Northampton, with provincial bosses lamenting his summer departure.

"We are extremely disappointed to announce that we will lose the services of a home-grown talent such as JJ," said Munster CEO Fitzgerald.

"We understand his reasons for leaving at the end of the season and appreciate the opportunity available to him."

Northampton are understood to have offered Hanrahan a contract in the region of £150,000-a-year that Munster were unable to match.

The 2012 World Junior Player of the Year nominee is making the Saints switch to chase a new challenge after falling behind Keatley in the pecking order at Munster.

"We have done everything possible in looking to retain such a skilful player and offered a highly-competitive package in the process but unfortunately the decision is out of our hands," said Fitzgerald.

"We would like to wish JJ all the best, he is a talented player with a very bright future ahead of him."

Hanrahan admitted he wrestled with the decision to reject a contract extension with Munster to join Northampton.

"I have thought long and hard about this decision, and as difficult as it is to leave I believe it is the right step to take for my future progression," said Hanrahan.

"Growing up, Munster was all I knew and I will certainly miss it.

"I am very fortunate to have represented this club and team but I need to do what is best for me and avail of the next opportunity.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here and want to thank everyone for their support and best wishes all along.

"I will continue to represent the jersey to the best of my ability for the remainder of the season."

Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder revealed his excitement at the signing of Hanrahan, who was shortlisted for Junior World Player of the Year in 2012.

The Saints boss hinted he already believes Hanrahan could prove the long-term replacement for prolific goal-kicker Stephen Myler, 30.

"JJ is a tremendous prospect," said Mallinder.

"He has consistently shown he has the ability to compete at the highest level of club rugby.

"While we are looking forward to having JJ join us in the summer we are particularly excited about seeing him develop over the coming years at Franklin's Gardens."

Munster's new deal for Keatley underlines the 27-year-old's steady rise under head coach Anthony Foley, and his return to the Test arena after five years out in the cold.

Keatley came off the bench in Ireland's 49-7 victory over Georgia in November and looks to have moved ahead of Ulster's Paddy Jackson in Ireland coach Joe Schmidt's reckoning.

"Ian is into his fourth season with us and continues to grow and impress," said Munster boss Foley.

"He leads by example with his commitment and attitude and we are fortunate to have him in our side."

Ireland flanker Peter O'Mahony should still complete terms on a new Munster deal without issue, even though discussions have lingered longer than expected.

Munster also announced new deals for Cian Bohane, Shane Buckley and Jack O'Donoghue.


From Belfast Telegraph