JJ Hanrahan excited for future after agreeing Northampton switch
Munsterman turns down a new three-year deal to join reigning Aviva Premiership champions in the summer
JJ Hanrahan insists career progression is the reason for his decision to join reigning English champions Northampton Saints.
The promising 22-year-old utility-back will leave his home province in the summer to swap the Guinness PRO12 for the Aviva Premiership despite being offered a new three-year deal by the club that nurtured him through their academy and gave him his first professional contract.
I’m excited by the challenge that awaits me at Northampton Saints and I hope that I can help continue the club’s recent successes.
Since making his PRO12 debut against Newport Gwent Dragons in September 2012, Carrow-born Hanrahan has made 51 appearances in the famous red jersey, including 11 league starts in 2013/14, as well as a number of impact cameos off the bench, particularly in the Heineken Cup, including a famous last-gap match-winning try to win 18-17 at Perpignan in the pool stages.
But his starting opportunities have at outside-half have been limited to just two starts this season under new head coach Anthony Foley with Ireland international Ian Keatley regularly getting the nod at outside-half for Munster this season.
Hanrahan’s versatility has also seen him make subsequent two starts against the Dragons and Ulster at full-back.
“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,” Hanrahan said.
“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 had nothing but positive experiences at Munster. It is my home club and running out in the red jersey has been and remains a great privilege.
“The coaching staff, from the Academy through to the senior coaches, have been brilliant with me since I entered the Academy.
“I remain fully committed to the Munster cause in the Pro 12 and the European Champions Cup for the remainder of the season.”
Despite failing to establish himself as first-choice 10 at Munster, Hanrahan has still found many admirers for his direct running, wicked step and ability to evade defenders on his way to the tryline, which also led to him being voted Munster’s Young Player of the Year in 2014.
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.
As well as his tactical kicking, his impressive goal kicking has been a major boost to Munster, which included landing 10 from 10 against Cardiff Blues, on his way to winning the PRO12’s Golden Boot award ahead of Wales international Dan Biggar in 2013/14.
Munster’s loss is very much Northampton’s gain, despite England international Stephen Myler holding the reins as first-choice outside-half.
And Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder is excited to have snared one of Irish rugby’s most promising backs despite questions over Hanrahan’s decision-making and game management.
“JJ is a tremendous prospect,” Mallinder said.
“He has consistently shown that he has the ability to compete at the highest level of club rugby.
“But 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.”
After lighting up the 2012 Junior World Championships in Ireland colours and being shortlisted for the IRB Junior Player of the Year award, his international career has been limited to appearances for Emerging Ireland at the IRB Nations Cup in Romania.
With Keatley, Johnny Sexton, Paddy Jackson and Ian Madigan all around the Ireland 10 jersey, Hanrahan could have to bide his time to be fully considered for a senior call-up.
“I’m excited by the challenge that awaits me at Northampton Saints and I hope that I can help continue the club’s recent successes in England and to challenge for European honours,” Hanrahan added.
“I was hugely impressed by the setup at Franklin’s Gardens. Like Munster, Northampton is a club that has a proud history, great structures and a passionate local supporter base.
“I am really looking forward to testing myself in a new environment.”
Hanrahan’s decision to leave Munster comes after plenty of speculation over the future of outside-halves plying their trade in Ireland.
I have had nothing but positive experiences at Munster. It is my home club and running out in the red jersey has been and remains a great privilege.
Ireland talisman Johnny Sexton is set to return to Leinster after the 2015 Rugby World Cup, so New Zealander Jimmy Gopperth has opted to join Aviva Premiership club Wasps with Ian Madigan expected to remain in Dublin rather than seek a return to Limerick.
The announcement of his move, just a day after he informed the Munster management, comes on the same day that Keatley agreed a new two-year deal to remain at the province.
And the club concede that they are disappointed to lose a player of Hanrahan’s ability.
“In confirming the positive news about player contracts earlier today we are extremely disappointed to announce that we will lose the services of a home-grown talent such as JJ,” said Munster CEO Garrett Fitzgerald.
“We understand his reasons for leaving at the end of the season and appreciate the opportunity available to him.
“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.
“We would like to wish JJ all the best, he is a talented player with a very bright future ahead of him.”