Munster Rugby have been dealt a considerable blow today with the news that JJ Hanrahan is to leave the province at the end of the season to join English Premiership side Northampton.
The talented outhalf was linked with a move away before Christmas but despite being offered a new three-year deal by Munster, he has instead opted to sign for the English side.
Hanrahan was second-choice to Ian Keatley at outhalf for the past two seasons but did make his first European Cup start against Clermont last month, albeit in the centre. He also featured at full-back for Munster on a number of occasions.
“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.
“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 thoroughly enjoyed my time here and want to thank everyone for their support and best wishes all along. I will continue to represent the jersey to the best of my ability for the remainder of the season.”
The Kerryman has made 51 appearances for the province, scoring 229 points, since first making his league debut against Newport Gwent Dragons in September 2012 in Thomond Park.
A former Castleisland RFC, Rockwell College and UL Bohemians man he moved to the senior squad at the start of the 2012/13 season after completing two years of the academy programme. In June 2012 he played an impressive role at out-half for the Ireland U-20 side that finished fifth in the Junior World Championship in South Africa and was one of three players nominated for the IRB Junior Player of the Year.
He made his European debut against Edinburgh in October 2012 in Thomond Park, and five days later scored two tries when making his first league start against Zebre in a man of the match performance.
He was awarded the Munster Rugby Young Player of the Year award for 2013/2014, and also won the Golden Boot at the 2014 PRO12 awards. In June he represented Emerging Ireland in the IRB Nations Cup in Romania. However, the standout moment from his time with Munster was his last-minute winning try for Munster against Perpignan in the Heineken Cup in December 2013.
Munster Rugby CEO Garrett Fitzgerald said, “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. 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.”
Munster earlier announced that four players have signed new contracts to stay at the province - Ian Keatley, Jack O’Donoghue, Cian Bohan and Shane Buckley.