Anthony Foley keen to retain JJ Hanrahan’s services
Dave Kilcoyne and James Cronin major injury doubts for Munster revenge mission to Clermont
Munster head coach Anthony Foley: “What we don’t want is to play the victim. We were well beaten by Clermont.” Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Once Munster coach Anthony Foley dispensed a medical bulletin that charted the province’s injury concerns ahead of Sunday’s European Champions Cup sequel at the Stade Marcel Michelin to last weekend’s first instalment in Thomond Park, there was a clear pathway to discuss JJ Hanrahan’s contract negotiations.
On a list of 100 things he’d like to discuss this week, Hanrahan’s prospective move to the Northampton Saints was probably 101st in the pecking order but Foley knew that he’d have to offer a Munster perspective to the ongoing contract negotiation process.
The short version is the coach wants the 22-year-old Castleisland playmaker to stay but the back-story that Foley offers provides an explanation as to why Hanrahan’s game time has been curtailed this season. “He is a young player that we have a lot of time for. We’ve looked after him very well in his preparation this season.
“The consequence of doing that meant he started the season a month behind everyone else and he is playing a small but of catch-up now. He’s not a million miles away but when he has come on in big games he has done a very good job for us.
“When we played him at full back against Dragons and Ulster he looked very dangerous back there and he is an incredible footballer and somebody we’d like to keep.
“You have got to think the long term with him in terms of making sure he is physically properly prepared for it; not in one week and out the next because of injury or physical preparation. It’s about the whole picture and hopefully we can deliver.
“There are contract negotiations ongoing. It’s unfortunate that it is out in the press but you go to any club in Ireland and there are fellas talking whether other clubs or renegotiating. When most players go about the national contracts you see them over in Toulouse and Perpignan and in the old days Biarritz. There would be fellas flying out and making sure they’re seen elsewhere.
As to Hanrahan’s non appearance off the bench in the defeat to Clermont Auvergne, Foley explained that he was considering introducing him at inside centre but Denis Hurley made a couple of breaks, giving the team momentum and so the coach elected to sit tight.
Foley’s immediate priority in terms of team selection is predicated on the medical reports relating to a couple of loosehead props. Dave Kilcoyne (knee) and James Cronin (shoulder) are both considered doubtful but the Munster coach refused to rule them out, stating: “It’s important that we give it as much time as possible because it’s a critical area of the game.”
His options should the pair be ruled out centre on John Ryan, likely to start in such an eventuality, and versatile Argentine hooker Eusebio Guinazu who has played at loosehead prop for the Pumas and also did so in an A game against Leinster. He’s been out injured since the Dragons match but he’s been working hard with the physiotherapists and did a little scrum work at the end of the session.
Gerhard van den Heever’s knee injury means that he’s almost certain to miss out with Foley suggesting that one of Ronan O’Mahony, Johne Murphy and Andrew Conway could deputise. On the issue of Clermont number eight Fritz Lee unloading a flurry of punches at Munster captain Peter O’Mahony, and the citing commissioner’s decision not to refer the incident, Foley said: “Look I’m sure if it was a Munster player doing it he’d get two weeks or something . . What we don’t want is to play the victim. We were well beaten by Clermont.
“They came over and did a big number on us and you saw with their celebrations at the end of the game what it meant to them. You can’t take that away from them. I’ve gone back on the video and it’s hard to see it on the cameras . . ..
“There was obviously a bit of pulling and dragging going on in the background but we got on with it.”