Friday 21 October 2016

Payne game is long term answer

Irish and Ulster centre Jared Payne: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Irish and Ulster centre Jared Payne: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

There can often be a pause between the award of a first international cap and the embrace of a nation when it comes to foreigners declaring for Ireland.

In a way, it is understandable given how they don't have those special interest groups fighting away in their corner, the family, the club, the parish, the town, the city that knows them so long and so deep.

South African CJ Stander has been granted special dispensation for the warm embrace, partly due to his exploits for Munster, partly down to his style of play.

He gives it all and it shows in every carry the big, bullocking back-rower makes.

There is an obvious outward expression of how he feels "humbled" to be in the position he is.

The same immediate appreciation was not bestowed on Jared Payne made his Ireland debut against South Africa in November 2014.

The New Zealander is a more cerebral animal.


Much of what he does is only fully appreciated by those inside the Carton House camp or those who know the game in detail.

The various calls had gone out for Keith Earls and Luke Fitzgerald to succeed 'the one and only' in the No 13 jersey.

Instead, coach Joe Schmidt promoted Payne to what many observed as his second best position behind full-back.

He kept faith with Payne through the 2015 Six Nations as Ireland penned back-to-back titles into the history books.

This season, Schmidt committed to developing what he once called "a manufactured midfield" because the coach could see a future in green for Payne and Robbie Henshaw.

The fractured foot put the boot into this partnership during the World Cup.

Then, the explosive impact of Stuart McCloskey prompted a clamour for the Ulster giant at inside centre and Henshaw at outside.

All the while, Payne kept his counsel, kept applying the skills of a 'players' player' in that he makes it easier for those around him because of his football intelligence and his clear communication.

The foot injury at the World Cup took away Payne's plan to build up match fitness and form with Ulster.

"Yeah, you've got to learn to dump things pretty quick in the rugby world," he said.

He had limited game time when the Six Nations rolled around.

It was a repeat of the story of his first season up north when a ruptured Achilles ruined it.

"Yeah, trying to get the body right as the foot injury was a bit of a nightmare," he reflected.

"I haven't had the best run for the last 14 months I guess you could say.

"It's been pretty frustrating so I'm just trying to enjoy myself when I get on the pitch and not get too frustrated.

"It can bog you down a bit, injuries, but I'm trying to take the positives and every time I get on the pitch I'm happy.

"I just try to look at the positives," he stated.

Ireland have had to put to one side the inches that could have made the difference between one point and two against Wales.

The Grand Slam and the Triple Crown have been removed from the list of possibilities.

It is now onto the French. They have shown that they intend to deliver a new dawn under Guy Noves.

What they uncovered against Italy was that there are vulnerabilities to their game.

Any way, Ireland have fared well against Les Bleus in recent times.

Could the upward curve continue against a county that once tortured Ireland with naked brilliance? "You can't really take into account the past few games," pushed Payne.

"It's a new team for both sides with new players in."

Payne will probably have to marshall Jonathan Danty, the slightly smaller, slightly more subtle version of Mathieu Bastareaud.

"He's going to be very tough to contain," he said.

It looks like French flair is back in fashion.

"There's a new coach for the French, so they're looking to adopt a different type of game.

"They threw a fair few offloads at the weekend.

"We're going to have to be on our toes defensively or else it could turn into a bit of an open game.

"In attack, if we can look after the ball and build a few phases we could be in a good spot."

Six nations

We're going to have to be on our toes defensively or else it could turn

into a bit of an

open game.

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