Jared Payne signs two-year extension with Ulster and Ireland
Jared Payne has signed a two-year contract extension with Ulster.
Confirmation of the signing brings the number of centrally contracted players to 15, with Jack McGrath expected to be upgraded to a national deal after one season of his new three-year contract in June 2017.
Payne made his debut for Ulster against Cardiff Blues in September 2011 and he has represented the Province on 63 occasions, scoring 14 tries.
The 30-year-old won his first international cap in the win over South Africa in November 2014 and he has claimed 12 caps and two tries to date.
Commenting on his new contract, Payne said: "I am very happy to have signed a two year Irish contract to remain with Ulster Rugby. 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 with Ireland."
Ulster's Director of Rugby, Les Kiss, said: "Jared is an incredibly astute and intelligent rugby player. He adds experience and calm to any backline and he will continue to be an important player for Ulster in the years to come."
IRFU, Performance Director, David Nucifora, commented: "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."
David Nucifora has contracted seven players on IRFU deals that expire after the 2019 World Cup, with Healy joining McGrath, Keith Earls, Robbie Henshaw, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray and Sean O'Brien as the spine of the squad who will, in the union's grand plan at least, spearhead Ireland's bid for glory in Japan.
Payne signature is expected to bring the silly season to a close.
After some loose talk of an exodus, only Ian Madigan and Marty Moore will leave these shores from Joe Schmidt's extended squad. Others came close to joining them, but ultimately they were persuaded to stay.
Given the buying power of the French and English clubs, it is no mean feat for the IRFU and the provinces to convince their best players to stay at home.