Hanrahan’s promising display in Clermont underlines his Munster potential
Murray Kinsella reports from Clermont-Ferrand
AFTER WHAT SEEMED to be a tumultuous week, judging from the outside at least, JJ Hanrahan was a bastion of composure for Munster in Clermont-Ferrand last night.
Source: James Crombie/INPHO
The 22-year-old offered up a promising display in his first start at inside centre for Anthony Foley’s side this season, adding a crucial passing option, while also threatening the line with his clever footwork.
It was not quite a stunning performance, but the Kerry native demonstrated that he is ready to start at this level regularly. Hanrahan only had three tackles to make, but each one of them saw the Clermont ball carrier firmly to deck.
A report early this week that the former Rockwell College student was close to joining Northampton had sent some Munster supporters into near-panic, but head coach Foley was calm about the situation, stating that his province have made their own offer.
Hanrahan’s showing at Stade Marcel-Michelin underlines the necessity for Munster to get that deal over the line.
With 10 passes, Hanrahan demonstrated the value of having a second distributor and playmaker in the 12 shirt. His passing allowed Munster to strike in wide channels on first phase, something they haven’t done too often this season, while his shorter passing brought teammates onto soft defensive shoulders regularly.
A clean linebreak in the first 40 minutes showed Hanrahan’s own running ability, even if a slip later in the half allowed Clermont to win a crucial turnover penalty.
“We would have had a similar plan last week, but we didn’t execute it. There were various reasons for that,” said Foley of Munster’s improved attack at Stade Marcel-Michelin.
Source: James Crombie/INPHO
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“I think JJ gives Keats [Ian Keatley] another outlet and allows us to challenge in a channel wider, pull them [Clermont] into an area where they’re not as aggressive defensively.”
Indeed, some of Hanrahan’s passing did stretch Clermont across the pitch, removing some of that linespeed that had stifled Munster the weekend before in Thomond Park.
The ex-Ireland U20 international always buys himself time on the ball with his subtle footwork, shifting a defender or two onto their heels with a slight change of direction.
Those valuable additional split-seconds allow Hanrahan to make stronger decisions, while his understanding of space is part of the process too. We knew much of this before kick-off in Clermont, but Foley would have been encouraged to see it in the high-intensity surroundings of a Champions Cup match.
Tying up Hanrahan’s new contract was likely a priority for Munster even before last week’s revelation of a potential move, and this performance against top-level opposition will likely have accentuated the haste.
In a professional sport in which defences are constantly improving, a player like Hanrahan could prove to be the vital element if Munster are to be successful in the coming months and years.
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