RUGBY: Ulster’s Jared Payne surprised at British & Irish Lions call

Jared Payne
Jared Payne

Ireland and Ulster back Jared Payne said he was hugely surprised to be included in the 41-man British and Irish Lions squad for the tour to New Zealand.

The 31-year-old, born in New Zealand but Irish qualified having played for Ulster since 2011, was seen as one of the more unexpected inclusions.

“It was a pretty big shock and something which has come out of the blue for me,” said Payne.

“I am hugely proud and my family are all over the moon as you can imagine. It hasn’t really sunk in yet.

“It is great for Ulster, and for me to have a few friendly faces (Rory Best and Iain Henderson) on the trip.

“Those two have worked hard over the last few years and it is good to see them recognised,” he added.

Payne, who operates at centre or full-back, has won 20 caps since making his Ireland debut against South Africa in 2014.

Meanwhile, Sam Warburton will join England World Cup winner Martin Johnson as a record two-time Lions captain this summer.

And Lions assistant coach Rob Howley believes their qualities are “quite comparable” following Wales flanker Warburton’s appointment to lead a second successive Lions tour.

Johnson filled the role in South Africa 20 years ago and for the 2001 trip to Australia, with Warburton now matching his feat when the Lions head to New Zealand next month, having led them Down Under in 2013.

Warburton stepped down as Wales skipper ahead of this season’s RBS 6 Nations Championship after captaining his country more than 40 times.

Howley, in his role as interim Wales head coach, was involved with that decision, but he has no doubt about 28-year-old Warburton’s leadership credentials.

“Having worked alongside Martin Johnson as a player, the qualities are quite comparable,” Howley said.

“I think there is a presence about Sam. He certainly leads by his actions.

“Sam doesn’t say too much, and Johnno was exactly the same. ‘Just go and do it,’ they were the famous Johnno words, and Sam is like that.”

British and Irish Lions 2017 squad

Forwards: Rory Best (Ireland), Dan Cole (England), Taulupe Faletau (Wales), Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), Jamie George (England), Iain Henderson (Ireland), Maro Itoje (England), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), George Kruis (England), Courtney Lawes (England), Joe Marler (England), Jack McGrath (Ireland), Ross Moriarty (Wales), Sean O’Brien (Ireland), Peter O’Mahony (Ireland), Ken Owens (Wales), Kyle Sinckler (England), CJ Stander (Ireland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Billy Vunipola (England), Mako Vunipola (England), Sam Warburton (Wales)

Backs: Dan Biggar (Wales), Elliot Daly (England), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Owen Farrell (England), Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Jonathan Joseph (England), Conor Murray (Ireland), George North (Wales), Jack Nowell (England), Jared Payne (Ireland), Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), Tommy Seymour (Scotland), Ben Te’o (England), Anthony Watson (England), Rhys Webb (Wales), Liam Williams (Wales), Ben Youngs (England)