One of Munster's smartest summer signings reveals Ronan O'Gara influence
Munster have made a seriously smart signing here.
Rassie Erasmus may be leaving the province later this year but his 18-month stint will, fans hope, be the spur for greater glories up the road.
The South African secured the services of Jaco Taute on a two-year deal, and, back in January got Chris Farrell and James Hart to commit to returning from France's Top 14.
JJ Hanrahan is coming back after two years with Northampton Saints. In recent weeks, the signings of Chris Cloete and Gerbrandt Grobler were also announced and there have been reports linking Scarlets lock Tadhg Beirne with a switch in the summer of 2018.
Of those five signings, the capture of goal-kicking scrumhalf James Hart could well be the most astute. Conor Murray will not start the regular PRO12 [soon to be PRO14] season after his exploits with the British & Irish Lions so Hart has the perfect opportunity to stake a claim.
Many fans will state that Murray is untouchable in the No.9 jersey but, starting 2016/17 as back-up, Duncan Williams ended up playing 1,440 minutes for Munster [19 starts, 11 sub appearances]. Bernard Jackman and Mike Prendergast rated the 25-year-old highly during his time at Grenoble and Ronan O'Gara praised his hard work and attention to detail during his stint at Racing 92.
Hart, a Clontarf native, has revealed how crucial a role O'Gara played in getting him to Munster. He said:
"ROG was one of the first people I spoke to when it became a reality that I could come to Munster. Obviously he being a true-and-true Munster man - he played his whole career here - had a say in it, and he was very helpful in the whole process.
"I get on very well with him when I was at Racing and he's a good man. Hopefully he keeps growing as a coach and we see him back one day here as a coach."
Hart was putting in match-winning performances against the likes of Toulouse and Toulon in his early 20s and is coming off the back of four high competitive seasons in Top 14 rugby.
He's adept at goal-kicking too so offers Munster another handy option there.