Defence coach Jared Payne says Ireland call-ups relfect Ulster’s current red-hot European form

Defence coach Jared Payne believes it is an indictment of Ulster’s current form that nine players have made it into new Ireland coach Andy Farrell’s first get-together in Dublin next week.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 16th December 2019, 8:41 pm
Updated Monday, 16th December 2019, 9:14 pm
Ulster defence coach Jared Payne
Ulster defence coach Jared Payne .

Ulster have won five consecutive games including all four in Europe to put one foot in the quarter finals, influential half back pair John Cooney and Billy Burns are in Farrell’s 45 man squad along with young prop Tom O’Toole.

“It’s a great reward for those guys to get a taste of that, Tommy especially, he’s a pretty good player so for him at that age to get to go down there and see how he goes is going to be invaluable for him,” said Payne. “I’m stoked for him.”

“It’s good for Billy and I think he’s playing his best rugby for us, so for him to get a chance to go down there that would be good as well - fingers crossed he lasts when he goes down there and comes back to us in one piece.”

Last Friday night’s bonus point win at Harlequins means Ulster only need three points from their last two games in Europe to reach the quarter finals and Payne thought the team showed maturity in the performance at The Stoop.

“I think that second half was very pleasing, we played the conditions very well,” he added.

“They are a pretty good team at squeezing the opposition and putting them under pressure, so for us to be able to flip that and put them under pressure and be patient and get those scores was very pleasing - it’s a step in the right direction for us.”

Ulster travel to Leinster on Friday night for a Conference A top of the table clash in the Pro14. The Kingspan club are eight points behind Leo Cullen’s men but as usual Irish management protocols kick in but Payne sees it as an opportunity for others to stepa up.

“You always have to this time of the year, there are always going to be changes and what will work and be good for us is that there’s a good feeling amongst the squad,” he said.

“It will be their time to step into the space at the weekend and hopefully they’ll bring a bit of energy, intent and really step up.”

“It’ll be good to see where those young guys are at, I’m looking forward to it.”

Leinster are unbeaten in all competitions this season and Ulster have only won once against them in Dublin in the last 20 years but Payne is hoping to snap that losing streak.

“They are 11 from 11, scoring points for fun at the moment so we’ve got to go down there with a good mind-set and I think if we can go down there with a bit of fear and worry and don’t quite put our best foot forward, you’re going to lose,” he said.

“I’d rather go down there and fire a few shots and throw a few punches in defence and see if we’re up for it.

“You either hide from it, or don’t talk about it, or just get on with it we realise the challenge - give them the respect but then go down with a bit of a mind-set that we want to go after them.”