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Monday 21 August 2017

'I haven't really watched any of that sort of thing' - Jared Payne ignores George's Hook's 'second rate player jibe'

Ulster's Kiwi is not going to be knocked off balance by criticism

Ireland's Jared Payne gets past Wales Jamie Roberts during the RBS 6 Nations match at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Ireland's Jared Payne gets past Wales Jamie Roberts during the RBS 6 Nations match at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff

OPINION is the opium of the masses. Naked discrimination is another, quite ugly thing.

The increasingly outrageous George Hook is teetering on the brink of extinction and the Corkonian will say anything to hold onto his moniker as 'The Eamon Dunphy of Rugby'.

The latest crossing of the line occurred on Saturday, in the light of defeat to Wales, when Hook hung the opening thrust of his criticism on the subject of Jared Payne's qualification and selection for Ireland.

"I'd like to know why Ireland has a problem of picking second-rate foreign players," he said.

In one fell swoop, Hook also took out the chair of legitimacy from under the likes of Leinster's Richardt Strauss, Connacht's Nathan White, Ulster's Robbie Diack and the soon-to-be-naturalised CJ Stander.

These are all men who have made the move from southern hemisphere to northern in order to pursue the dream of international rugby and given strong service to their provinces.

CONCERNS

Basically, Hook used his platform to voice his concerns over the "appallingly treated" Ian Madigan at Ireland and, previously, at Leinster where another New Zealander Jimmy Gopperth has blocked Madigan's game-time at out-half.

Hook even managed to suggest the powers of provincial coaches should be reduced further from a position where they are already undermined by the Player Welfare Programme.

"The point is, you have a national policy or you don't have a national policy. Madigan should be at inside centre and he should be playing number 12 week in, week out," continued Hook.

The use or not of Madigan is a 'red herring'.

The valuable Leinster man has not had things as he would have liked this season. But, he has shown his worth. He is an important piece for club and country.

In fairness, former Ireland international Shane Horgan refused to turn the other cheek in the presence of Hook's comments.

"You brought the nationality issue up George.

"Jared Payne has come over, he's become Irish qualified. He's played for Ulster for three years. He's committed himself to Ireland and I think he should be treated with respect, like any Irish player."

You would have to play a game in Payne's boots to know exactly how upsetting this is. The party-line dictates that he simply ignores it and shows the nonsense of the allegation by performing for Ireland.

All issues and allegations are answered on the field of play.

Payne understandably pled The Fifth Amendment.

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinions," he voiced.

"I didn't hear it all. I haven't really watched any of that sort of thing. People that say that type of stuff have their opinions."

It is people like Hook who just look at what Payne has had to gain, not what he has had to give up.

The man from Tauranga took his time to make a decision which could have come to nothing.

"It's a fairly big one, isn't it? You only get to see your parents four weeks out of the year," he said.

"It is a fairly big thing leaving your family and your home and all of your mates. Look, it's something I thought about and I have no regrets about it."

Payne, now 29, departed New Zealand for Ulster in 2011 for three years with no guarantee of graduating to the international arena.

He is in the process of developing a centre partnership with Ireland rookie Robbie Henshaw and is having to do it on the run.

Perhaps, the outrage expressed by Hook was a reaction to how Ireland had come up short of what they promised, not through their words, through their actions against France and England.

Certainly, Payne makes for an easy target.

Discuss: "Yeah, possibly, I don't know, that's up to other people," he said.

Outside Payne, Ireland, too, is a project in progress.

The flaws that were exposed by the tunnel vision of big forwards on the charge must be sorted out for Murrayfield or Ireland run the risk of going two-from-two defeats.

It is difficult to imagine a New Zealand club, never mind the All Blacks, hammering away at the whitewash wasting the majority of a backline standing idle and unopposed.

"I don't know about wasting. It was pretty loud out there and the boys were in the heat of the moment. It was unfortunate.

"I think it was just a one-off. It's a pretty loud stadium once you are down in the middle of it with all those Welsh people yelling."

The relaxed centre was not about to break away from the one-in, all-in team outlook on professional rugby life.

"It's just a learning thing, isn't it and we've just got to learn from it," he said.

Ireland will be back at The Millennium to meet France in the World Cup on October 11.

"You've just got to hope the players are looking for it in the future. That is the best you can ask for."

Here's hoping.

 

The use or not of Madigan is a 'red herring'. The Leinster man has not had things as he would have liked this season.

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