There has been considerable speculation as to whether the young Kerryman is best suited to his customary out-half position or if he could be used even more usefully as first centre alongside Ian Keatley. However, this latest move by Anthony Foley suggests the Munster head coach believes Hanrahan may well have other strings to his bow.
Foley has once again shaken up his squad, this time numbering seven changes, and two more positional switches, from the side that earned a late victory over Cardiff Blues on their last visit to Wales three weeks ago. Argentinian hooker Eusebio Gwinazu makes his first start, veteran Donncha O’Callaghan returns to the second-row to lead the side and Robin Copeland, after picking up his firs Irish cap on Sunday last, is included at number eight.
Paddy Butler, scorer of the match-winning try against Cardiff, lines out on the blind-side flank, with Sean Dougall returning at number seven.
Ian Keatley has also been released by the Irish management and partners Cathal Sheridan at half-back. Ronan O’Mahony comes in on the left wing.
O’Mahony’s brother Barry has had bad news however, as the leg injury he sustained in Tuesday’s squad session at UL is serious enough to keep him out of action for the foreseeable future.
Munster, currently fourth in the Pro12, will be expected to win.
The Dragons are back in 10th spot with only the Italian duo Treviso and Zebre worse off. The Dragons’ one success so far was over Treviso, and they achieved their only win over Munster in April 2013.
Munster have won four of their last five games in Wales but even so, assistant Brian Walsh is certainly taking nothing for granted.
“Against Cardiff, we probably rode our luck a bit, didn’t play terribly well but showed great spirit to win it at the end,” Walsh said.
“This week is not dissimilar, trying to win and keep the momentum we had going into the break, going to a tough place and facing a squad that hasn’t lost that many players.
“The Dragons recently put 50 points on the Ospreys (in the LV Cup), 48 of those in the first half, so I think maybe they found a bit of form and have confidence going into this week.
“They have canny coaches in Lyn Jones and Kingsley Jones, they have a good set up and their backs are to the wall to get a result. We just have to be at our best.”
Winger Hallam Amos returns from Welsh duty to line out on the left wing for the Dragons while South African prop Brok Harris makes his first start, having moved from tight to loose head.
He may well renew acquaintance with his former Western Province team mate Pat Howard, included in the Munster replacements having just arrived as a short-term centre signing.
In spite of their poor Pro 12 record, the Dragons showed what they were capable of in running up 48 unanswered points in the LV Cup against an admittedly under strength Ospreys side and as a result, director of rugby Lyn Jones believes it will lead on to even greater things tonight, their cause helped that their only player required by Wales is flanker Toby Faletau.
“It was a really good performance and now we will be a little bit more confident for Munster”, he commented.
“We pulled together, played as unit and as a team.”
G R Jones; T Morgan, R Wardle, A Smith, H Amos; D Jones, R Rees; B Harris, E Dee, D Way, C Hill, R Landman capt, J Thomas, N Cudd, L Evans.
Replacements: T Rhys Thomas, O Evans, L Fairbrother, M Screech, O Griffiths, J Evans, J Tovey, A Hewitt.
J J Hanrahan; A Conway, A Smith, D Hurley, R O’Mahony; I Keatley, C Sheridan; J Ryan, E Guinazu, S Archer, D O’Callaghan capt, B Holland, P Butler, R Copeland, S Dougall.
Replacements: D Casey, A Cotter, BJ Botha, Dave O’Callaghan, CJ Stander, D Williams, P Howard, J Murphy.