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Jared Payne’s departure is a major blow for Ulster but focus must be on Northampton

Paul Marshall


Jared Payne has revealed he will be leaving Ulster

Jared Payne has revealed he will be leaving Ulster

Ulster's Nathan Doak will start a European game for the first time

Ulster's Nathan Doak will start a European game for the first time

Ulster's Billy Burns needs to show his experience

Ulster's Billy Burns needs to show his experience

©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo


Jared Payne has revealed he will be leaving Ulster

Jared Payne’s departure will have left a lot of disappointment within Ulster.

I only got to experience a little bit of his coaching as he stepped in the year that Les Kiss moved on to help with the defence even though he was still a player, and he really did seem to be in his element when he was going through coaching and meetings.

There was never any doubting his knowledge of the game as a player, but I was really impressed in those couple of months when he was able to impart his knowledge to other players, and any player I speak to says the same. It will be felt as a loss within the group.

He maybe feels like he’s been at Ulster for a while and he maybe feels he needs to move somewhere else and be challenged in a new way for his own development, and I wish him all the best wherever he ends up.

From my experience things change very quickly in sport, you don’t really have time to dwell on it. Players may be feeling a bit disappointed he’s moving on, but they also know — and Jared himself will know — there’s a bigger task at hand today and it’s more important they focus on what they’re doing against Northampton.

Ulster have more to gain than Northampton in this game, the way their pool is set. If they win this game then they are in a great spot moving into the knockout stages, and that’s even before they play Clermont at home next week. It’s right in front of them, they just need to go and take it.

Ulster, under Dan McFarland, have always played better when they take the game to teams and play at pace. It looked like they were trying too hard not to lose against Munster last week rather than continuing to go after them, so the big thing today is for them to keep going after Northampton.

If you remember the home game against Northampton, it was only 27-22 even though Ulster were better for large portions of that game. It became quite nervy at the end. That’s maybe not a bad thing. If Ulster had stuffed Northampton at home then they maybe would have been in a position where they would be complacent, but now they will be wary of how
they came back.

It’s a big game for Nathan Doak, making his first European start, but I think it’s a bigger game for Billy Burns. The last time they played in Europe against Northampton, he had the experience of John Cooney and Stuart McCloskey alongside him, but this time he’s got Doak and Stewart Moore.

So in many ways, I think Burns’ role as the elder statesman in that back line is very important, especially given the average age of the Ulster back line is just 23-years-old. It is incredibly exciting to see these guys getting the opportunities they deserve.

Doak is obviously very talented and it doesn’t look like he’s been flustered by anything so far. His kicking game is such a big weapon for him and the team, so I just hope he continues to play as he has been because he has so much confidence, and having the experience of Duane Vermeulen in front of him is such a confidence booster as well.

Another young player who I'm glad is getting another opportunity because he's been sensational is Marcus Rea. When we talk about young players in the back line, I'm delighted to see him get another go in the back row because I think he was phenomenal so far this season - he was brilliant against Clermont, and for him to do that in his first European game was incredible.

I think Ulster will win but it’ll be tight. I'm going to go for a 20-16 win for Ulster. Dan Biggar makes a big difference for Northampton, I think they did miss him in Belfast, and that back-row of Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam and Teimana Harrison is fantastic. But I’m hoping Ulster will come out on top.

Paul Marshall is part of the Premier Sports TV team bringing fans all the action and analysis from every Ulster game live throughout the United Rugby Championship season.

The next URC fixture for Ulster will be at Kingspan Stadium against the Scarlets on Friday, January 28 kicking off at 7.35pm. This home fixture will be live and exclusive on Premier Sports – so join the team under Friday night lights for the next instalment in the Championship.

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