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Jared Payne is honoured to extend his stay at the Kingspan

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster and the IRFU yesterday confirmed that Jared Payne has signed a new two-year central contract. The Kiwi, who has won 12 caps since qualifying for the national side on residency in November 2014, will now remain within the Irish set-up until at least 2018.

Capable of playing both at full-back and centre, Payne's class on the ball and defensive nous have seen him become an important figure for Ulster since arriving in 2011 and latterly for Joe Schmidt's squad.

Commenting on the fresh deal, Payne spoke of the honour he feels representing both his adopted province and Ireland.

"I am very happy to have signed a two-year Irish contract to remain with Ulster Rugby," the 30-year-old said. "It has been an honour for me to not only pull on the Ulster jersey, but to represent Ireland as well.

"There is plenty for us to achieve at Ulster and Ireland."

Ulster's Director of Rugby, Les Kiss, praised Payne's ability and said he will remain integral for the Kingspan outfit moving forward.

"Jared is an incredibly astute and intelligent rugby player," said Ireland's former defence coach (right).

"He adds experience and calmness to any backline and he will continue to be an important player for Ulster in the years to come."

IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora added: "Jared has illustrated his ability to compete at the highest level and be an important leader and decision maker for both Ireland and Ulster.

"We are delighted to have secured his services for a further two years."

Although he has played most of his rugby for Ulster at fullback, Payne is regarded by Ireland coach Joe Schmidt as the natural heir to Brian O'Driscoll's No.13 jersey and has forged a successful midfield partnership with Connacht's Robbie Henshaw.

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