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I have to give up the dream: Jared Payne appointed Ulster coach as retirement confirmed

By Gareth Hanna

Jared Payne has been appointed defence coach at Ulster Rugby after his retirement from playing was confirmed.

The centre had been sidelined for almost a year with recurrent headaches since he featured for the British and Irish Lions against the Chiefs on June 20.

While he continued to train, Payne took up coaching responsibilities with Ulster during the season and his position as defence coach has now been rubber-stamped. He will travel with the Ireland squad on the upcoming tour to Australia to work with the national coaches.

"It’s been a good ride but unfortunately 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 meet people I never thought I’d meet.

"Firstly, I’d like to thank my parents for all their help in my younger years and my brother Josh for being a live tackle bag! Thanks also to the coaches and team mates throughout the years that have made living this dream possible, and to the staff, volunteers and fans that make game days so special. The support that I’ve received from my partner Chrissie and sons Jake and Tyler, particularly over the past 12 months, has been incredible.

"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. 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."

New Zealand-born Payne made 78 appearances for Ulster since joining the province from Blues in 2011.

Payne, 32, won 20 caps for Ireland and was called up for the Lions' 2017 tour of New Zealand. He played in three tests and scored a try against the Chiefs before being withdrawn through concussion after 76 minutes in what proved his final game of professional rugby.

"I was playing in that Chiefs game and took a bit of a whack towards the end of it," he explained to Ulster Rugby TV back in February.

"Ever since then I haven’t been quite right. It’s been a bit stop-start. There’s been times when it hasn’t been too bad and other times when it’s been pretty bad. We’ve tried different things to get it right and been trying to get back but unfortunately nothing has cleared everything up."

Ulster scrum-half John Cooney just last week praised Payne's impact since stepping in to coaching duties during the campaign.

"I think Jared's been excellent since he's become coach," he said. "He's a hard individual and he'll relay what he thinks of you but I think that's what we need. Honestly, he's been unbelievable. He just puts a lot of pressure on you and he really wants us to go after teams. As you can see, our defence did struggle a bit during the season but even keeping Ospreys to zero tries in the first game, stuff like that just makes a huge difference. He's really got us going."

Fast forward to 36.30 for a discussion of Payne as a coach on last week's Ulster Rugby Round Up podcast:

Ulster Operations Director Bryn Cunningham backed Payne to make a success of his new role.

"Jared was a fantastic player who was exceptionally gifted, having had a huge influence in the game in both attack and defence," he said.

"While we will lose Jared’s ability on the pitch, we now gain another astute rugby brain on the sidelines. 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."

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