JJ Hanrahan: Northampton switch was to boost Ireland hopes

Outhalf doesn’t regret swapping boyhood province Munster for Franklin Gardens

JJ Hanrahan has no regrets about swapping his native Munster for Northampton Saints. Photograph: PA

JJ Hanrahan has no regrets about swapping his native Munster for Northampton Saints. Photograph: PA

 

JJ Hanrahan insists he traded Munster for Northampton to boost his chances of a Test call-up with Ireland.

The 23-year-old outhalf accepts he faces an uphill battle while plying his trade overseas, but believes if he thrives at Northampton he can command international recognition.

Ireland’s performance director David Nucifora recently confirmed overseas-based stars face a tough fight for Test rugby, but Hanrahan remains unfazed.

Hanrahan will start Northampton’s Aviva Premiership East Midlands derby at Leicester on Saturday, his 11th appearance of the campaign.

“This move is about coming here, trying to get as much experience as I can, trying to get better, and trying to get to that international level,” said the uncapped Hanrahan.

“And when you get in there, to stay in there.

“There’s no point getting in there for one or two games and back out again.

“You want to get in there and stay in there — and that’s why I moved here.

“I’ve absolutely no doubts at all I made the right move.

“This is a great club with great support, I’ve never played in front of a stadium sold out so regularly.

“The boys and coaching staff are great and I’m really, really enjoying it.”

Performance director Nucifora handles the Irish Rugby Football Union’s (IRFU) contract negotiations, and recently conceded overseas-based players put themselves at a “disadvantage” when it comes to Test selection.

Ireland boss Joe Schmidt regularly bemoaned the lack of control over Johnny Sexton during the star fly-half’s Racing Metro stint.

Ian Madigan has opted to leave Leinster for Bordeaux next term, refusing to sit behind Sexton in the pecking order now the British and Irish Lions star is back in Dublin.

Hanrahan chose Northampton over biding his time alongside Ian Keatley at Munster, but insists he cannot fixate on the short-term ramifications.

“Absolutely I can’t worry about that,” said Hanrahan, of Nucifora’s comments on overseas-based players’ Ireland chances.

“If I was a player that was maybe in the Ireland set-up and moved away it might be a different conversation, but I was never really in the set-up.

“And that’s no fault of anyone’s, only myself. Maybe I wasn’t up to the standard.

“The reason I made the move is to try to grow my game, grow myself as a person and gain as much experience as I can.

“If you’re playing in the Premiership and playing regularly and you’re lucky enough to get a call-up for Ireland, then playing against a team like England wouldn’t be such a shock to you, because you’ve done it before — you’ve played against all those players.

“For me it’s about growing my game and getting to the best level I can.

“If Ireland see me in contention then great, but if they don’t I just have to keep working hard enough until they do.

“I’m just trying to play week on week at the moment.”

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