Belfast Telegraph

RaboDirect Pro12: Payne quick to gain experience of the game up north

By Michael Sadlier

He sits on the floor with his back against the wall awaiting another stint in front of the assembled media with, thankfully, a pretty decent debut in an Ulster shirt behind him.

But this approach isn’t due to any weariness about what is to follow; Jared Payne is just taking things as he finds them and maintaining a pretty laid-back attitude to it all while he’s at it.

When asked about Sunday’s clash with the Ospreys the 25-year-old Kiwi admits he’s not exactly sure as to whereabouts in Wales he’ll be playing and that, well, it’s really a case of finding out when he gets there.

“To be honest I don’t even know what city the stadium is in but I’ll just jump on the plane and go,” the former Auckland Blues player said with a smile.

If his geography is understandably not at its sharpest; at least his playing ability is clearly operating at a much higher level which augurs well for Ulster.

Against Cardiff Blues we got mere vignettes of Payne’s armoury and he looked dangerous with the ball in hand and was willing and able to offer himself as a strike-running threat from the back.

“There were a few rusty moments,” he admitted.

“I had to ask the guys what the calls were, they have helped me a lot and hopefully each week I will get to understand things better and things will get sharper.

“I caught the first kick which made it a bit easier because if I hadn’t it would have been a long night.

“I’d heard awesome things about Ravenhill with the singing and the chants and, you know, it

was a lot different to back home because you don’t get a lot of that.”

He’s still adapting to the style of game in the northern hemisphere – his only previous experience in this part of the world was in France with the All Blacks U-21 side – but it seems Ulster have potentially found a player to bring greater thrust to the attacking game that they are trying to play.

“I was impressed with the style of rugby Ulster played, we tried to move the ball more often than not which was good,” Payne said.

“I’m feeling like a young rookie again because I’m learning a lot of new stuff. It’s good because it refreshes you.

“It’s (the northern hemisphere game) a little bit more direct than New Zealand, it’s a little bit slower at times and there is a bit more kicking but all those aspects are dictated by the weather.”

As for Sunday, he’s been cramming hard for what is essentially a crash course on the Ospreys’ playing style.

“They bring a lot of line speed into defence which is always tough to play against and that’s a bit different from what other teams do,” he said. “I think if we can handle that and get some quick ball I think we are in with a shot.

“Onwards and upwards. It’s been good here and hopefully things will continue like that.”

So far, he's well on track.

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