Jared Payne: Ireland and Ulster centre handed coaching role after announcing retirement

Jared Payne
Jared Payne is moving into coaching after making 20 international appearances for Ireland

Ireland and Ulster centre Jared Payne will take up a coaching role with the province after retiring because of recurring headaches.

Payne, who will be Ulster's defence coach, has not played since sustaining a head injury on the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand in 2017.

New Zealand-born Payne, 32, represented Ulster on 78 occasions and earned 20 Ireland caps.

"It's been a good ride but every good thing has to come to an end," he said.

"Playing rugby has taken me to places I never thought I'd see and allowed me to meet people I never thought I'd meet.

"I would like to thank all of the medical professionals who have supported me since my injury occurred back in June last year. I'm extremely grateful for your considerable care and attention.

"While I will undoubtedly miss the buzz of running out with mates every weekend, I have to listen to the medical advice and unfortunately give up the dream.

Jared Payne is relishing his new position at Ulster as defence coach
Jared Payne is relishing his new position at Ulster as defence coach

"However, I've surprised myself how much I have enjoyed coaching and I'm really looking forward to getting my teeth into this role on a permanent basis.

"Finally, I'd like to thank the management here at Ulster for giving me the opportunity to contribute in this way and I look forward to trying to repay the faith shown in me."

Payne will spend time with the Ireland set-up on the summer tour of Australia as he prepares for his new role with Ulster alongside head coach Dan McFarland.

"While we will lose Jared's ability on the pitch, we now gain another astute rugby brain on the sidelines," said Bryn Cunningham, Ulster's Operations Director.

"We have known that this would be a potential outcome for some time and integrating him into the coaching side of things over the past few months it has proved to be very successful.

"The positive feedback from senior coaches within Irish Rugby and players themselves is testament to the early impression he has made."

Analysis

BBC Sport Northern Ireland's John Haughey

The confirmation about Payne's enforced retirement was inevitable after his recurring headaches meant he couldn't play a single minute for Ulster this season.

In the early part of the campaign, then Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss spoke optimistically of the New Zealand-born player's prospects of getting back to action.

But each time Payne attempted to train with Ulster the headaches returned and it was an open secret that Monday's announcement was going to come.

Payne joined Ulster in 2011 after making over 40 Super Rugby appearances during stints at the Chiefs, Crusaders and Blues.

The New Zealander was signed as a full-back during Brian McLaughlin's Ulster reign but three years after his arrival in Belfast, Payne came onto new Ireland coach Joe Schmidt's radar as a possible solution to the vexed question of who might replace legendary Brian O'Driscoll in the Irish midfield.

By now Irish-qualified, Payne made his Ireland debut against South Africa in November 2014 and he went on to establish a centre partnership with Robbie Henshaw highly valued by Schmidt.

Payne's presence in the congested midfield meant his graceful glides past unsuspecting opponents became less of a feature of his game but Schmidt insisted his defensive qualities and understanding with Henshaw were key components of Ireland's retention of the Six Nations title in 2015.

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland clearly had a similar view as Payne was a somewhat surprisingly inclusion for the 2017 tour which sadly was to prove the conclusion of his playing career.