No return date in sight for Jared Payne as Ulster continue to monitor him closely

The Ireland international hasn’t played since June.

THERE IS GROWING concern over the fitness of Jared Payne as the Ireland international continues to suffer from cervicogenic headaches which curtailed his Lions tour.

Jared Payne Payne remains sidelined. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Payne was forced to return early from New Zealand after being stood down due to migraines and while he received the medical all-clear, the 32-year-old has not yet returned to play.

The fullback has again been ruled out of Ulster’s Champions Cup trip to La Rochelle this weekend as the problem continues to linger with the province saying there is no clear return date at this stage.

Payne’s fitness is being monitored on a week-by-week basis by Ulster’s medical staff and Les Kiss last week admitted it’s important that a ‘wise decision’ is made over when he returns to competitive action.

“It’s a tough one for Jared at the moment,” the Ulster director of rugby said. “If you look at last year he had the kidney and was stop start with his calf, so we just want to make sure it’s right before we make those decisions and he’s working with a lot of people.

“He’s been cleared of any real issues, it’s just about getting a few little things right so we can get into contact properly and not have any response to it. He’s training with us, we’re working through contact levels, but it’s important we don’t rush it.

“It’s too important for him and we don’t want to jump early and not have his services later on in the year. It’s important that we make that wise decision about when he reintegrates with playing. Where that is, I can’t give you a true answer.”

Meanwhile, Rory Best’s return has been delayed by another week after the Ulster captain was effectively ruled out of the trip to France as he continues his comeback from a hamstring injury.

“Rory is still week to week,” Jono Gibbes said at this afternoon’s press conference. “He was involved with the squad this week. I think it may be to early this week for him, but he has reached the next level with involvement in the session this morning.”

Ulster are, however, hopeful of having John Cooney and Jean Deysel fully fit for the Pool 1 clash on Sunday after picking up knocks in the opening weekend victory over Wasps.

South African prop Schalk van der Merwe could also make his debut for the northern province following his summer arrival from the Southern Kings.

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