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JJ is confident of handling big responsibility on Saturday v ‘Sarries’

By Aidan Corr
CURROW is a small village just off the main road between Castleisland and Kerry Airport. It has Limerick rugby connections with former Shannon star Mick Galwey and UL Bohemian fly-half JJ Hanrahan both claiming family connections there. ‘Gaillimh’s’ star has faded since he bade farewell to oval ball action but this week it was all about JJ, how he has become (almost) the last ten standing at Munster training this week, the drop goal attempt and ‘that skip pass’ against Racing that had all the markings of Stephen Larkham about it.
This morning JJ was fielding awkward questions with the fine-tuned ability of a test batsman. How did he feel when he saw his drop kick drift wide of the left hand post?: “It was a massive disappointment but you have to get back on the horse and move on. With 60 minutes gone we would have taken a draw. You must have pride in yourself, have an internal expectation and utilise mental strategies.”
Interestingly, Stephen Larkham is the first former out-half who has played at ten at the highest level, to coach JJ: “Stephen has those little details that can make a difference. When you play at ten you just look at your own options and what is in front of you. It is different for Rory and the centres, they have a wider view of the field. You have to focus on every minute of a game.”
Head coach Johaan van Graan had high praise for the Munster supporters and related how the game against Racing was such “an incredible occasion.” Our fans, he said, “are special in the way that they have such respect for visiting teams. Saracens are a physical team but that is what Munster is built on. Physicality is not a problem for us, it is what we love and the game is built on physicality. 17 of the Saracens squad played in the World Cup. They may have had a poor start to their season but winning away from home is not an issue for them. We win together, we draw together, we lose together.”
Injuries will see Munster go into Saturday night’s game a little bit stretched for key positions. Joe Carberry will be lucky to return by the end of the month, Tyler Bleyendaal is still nursing a neck injury and props Jeremy Loughran and Dave Kilcoyne are also unavailable with injuries. It seems unlikely that Munster will throw in Ben Healy in the matchday squad which means for the second Champions Cup game in succession Rory Scannell will cover for ten if required.
Asked about Ben Healy’s performance last week-end against Edinburgh, Johaan van Graan replied: “The last thing you want on your debut at that level is a bloody nose in the warm-up and a bad pass for your first touch of the ball.”
CJ Stander summed up Saturday night’s fixture as another big game and exciting occasion: “These back to back games are massive. We don’t measure games in ‘importance’ but we will be prepared and ready for the challenge. We have a lot of skilful players in our side and it promises to be another terrific night in Thomond Park.”


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