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'He's been coaching for two years in our environment': Schmidt excited to bring Payne's influence to Oz

The head coach has long viewed the Ulster man as an invaluable presence on the field, so his off-field presence will be more than welcome approaching the first Test against the Wallabies.

Updated Jun 1st 2018, 8:02 PM

A NEW TITLE, but players and coaches alike expect Jared Payne to bring the same intelligent influence to Ireland camp.

The Ulster and Ireland back announced his retirement from playing rugby at the age of 32 last week, a little over 11 months after playing his final match.

Chase Tiatia with Jared Payne Source: Photosport/Bruce Lim/INPHO

That his last outing came in Waikato as a Lion reveals so much of the esteem coaches held Payne in. Never the quickest or most physically imposing, Payne’s game intelligence (and no shortage of silky skill) continually kept him one step ahead.

Hand in hand with the announcement of Payne’s retirement due to concussion was the positive note that he will remain on in the job he has held unofficially for the past four months, Ulster Rugby defence coach.

His progress in that field will also be put on the fast-track of exposure to the international training scene – an initiative Felix Jones, Girvan Dempsey and Ronan O’Gara benefited from last summer – as Payne has linked up with Ireland for pre-tour training in Carton House and will remain with the squad until after the first Test against Australia on 9 June.

“It’s a role that’s going to suit him,” says CJ Stander, a team-mate of Payne’s for both Ireland and the Lions.

We’re all professional and we want to work as hard as we can. When he spoke, he said what he’s going to do and did it. That what he expects from players.

“He’s always been a defensive leader, especially in Irish camp. In defence when he spoke, people listened. This tour, and this week so far, he’s learning and seeing what we’re doing. Then I think he’s going to take that experience and then go to Ulster and show them what he can do.

“An unbelievable player, he’s going to be a great coach.”

Jared Payne Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Payne won all 20 of his Test caps under Joe Schmidt. The Ireland head coach continually showed immense levels of faith in the versatile back, first, tasking him with filling Ireland’s 13 jersey to smooth the transition into the post-Brian O’Driscoll era.

Payne’s final cap came in the 2017 Six Nations win over England when the Ulster star was still working back to full fitness after a horrible kidney injury left him passing blood during the November 2016 win over Australia.

“I’m very tempted to put him into the side,” Schmidt joked, albeit with a deadly serious expression, yesterday.

The head coach will be glad to have his compatriot’s influence within the squad on this tour, even if he won’t be able to lay a hand on a ball or personally marshal the line.

Ireland’s head coach Joe Schmidt Iain Henderson and Jared Payne Schmidt, Payne and Henderson celebrate Ireland's first Test win in South Africa. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“He’s a great character as well as a really clever player. A couple of years ago we went to South Africa with a very young side, he was an incredible leader in that situation with some of the detail and advice he gave.

“He’s been coaching for the last two years in our environment. So for him to pick up (coaching) and do so well with Ulster in a very short space of time. Already it promises plenty from Jared’s perspective…without putting much pressure on him, you’re inevitably learning.

“I’ve been doing this for about 17/18 years and I’m still learning every time we get together.

“He’s a good learner, he’s already got great game knowledge. he’s got a real ability to communicate positively.”

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Sean Farrell

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