Tuesday was quite a day for Ulster fullback, Jared Payne.
Firstly he was called up for the Barbarians squad to play against the British Lions and then he penned a new three year contract to stay at Ulster.
“Yeah to sign the new contract was awesome, I’ve enjoyed my time at Ulster so far and I’m looking forward to the next three years,” stated Payne.
“Three years is a long time and I have already been away from home for two, it was tough but with the team we’ve got, the players we’ve got and the way we are playing made it a little bit easier.”
Payne was born in Tauranga, New Zealand but will become Irish qualified next year and that was one of the reasons why he signed the new deal.
“It’s a long way away and I’ll obviously have to do a lot of work if I want to make the Irish team but it definitely was a factor.”
Payne’s first season at Ulster was a write off due to injury but he’s enjoying his rugby this term.
“It’s been a tough season this year with a few injuries but it’s definitely better than the first one, I’m enjoying my rugby more and more as the weather fines up and bit and the body is feeling better and it helped that the contract came around at this time.”
“It’s great to be involved with Ulster and there are some awesome players, when you have a quality group of players it is easy to resign.”
The former Auckland Blues performances have made him a cult hero among the Ravenhill faithful and he has earned his own House of Payne banner on the terraces.
“It is pretty humbling and it is just awesome to see the way the fans embrace you as an Ulster man and that was a massive swaying factor as well, if you don’t have the fans to support you it’s pretty tough to run out their every night and it’s just a privilege to play at Ravenhill on a Friday night.”
“I met a few people how were street at 8am on Saturday morning lining up for tickets so the fans will be excitied and they will be making a lot of noise for us on Friday night.
Payne will get another chance to run out at Ravenhill this Friday as Ulster host the Scarlets in the Pro12 semi final.
“We are looking forward to it as much as the fans are, it’s going to be a huge challenge against the Scarlets they are quality team.”
“Not to make the final would be hugely disappointing as a group, we not how important this is and we know what a challenge the Scarlets will be and we are definitely not taking them lightly we’ll be on our toes.”
Ulster have beaten the Scarlets twice this season and Simon Easterby’s side come to Ravenhill on the back of an embarrassing home defeat to Treviso but Payne knows it’s about the 80 minutes on Friday and not previous form.
“It’s probably worst that they have had a bad performance because they are going to be that bit angrier have an edge at training this week and in a semi final form goes out the window and it’s a case of who plays the best.”
Ulster have beaten Leinster at the RDS and taken three bonus point wins in their last four league games rediscovering their early season form.
“We still feel we have a lot to work on and we’re still trying to iron out a few problems, the Leinster game gave us a bit of confidence and we’ve kicked on from it but confidence doesn’t really matter when your on the pitch for 80 minutes it’s a matter of putting your best foot forward.”
Payne is looking for to visiting Hong Kong with the Barbarians and meeting up with his old Blues colleague Joe Rokocoko.
“It’s a massive privilege to be selected and it is going to be a huge honour to play for the Barbarians, I can’t wait it is going to be an awesome occasion against the Lions in Hong Kong.”
“I’ve never played with Nick Evans but I’ve played a fair bit with Rocks at the Blues in his last year there and it will be good to get a chat with him and Kahn Fotuali’I as well as I played with him at the Crusaders.”
“There are a few guys in there I know so it is going to be great fun and the Baba’s play an awesome style of rugby.”
“New Zealand is rugby mad so you learn about the Lions and the Barbarians, I was in New Zealand during the Lions tour in 2005 it was an awesome occasion and you can see the importance of it all and it’s just wicked to be involved and will be an awesome opportunity.”
“It will be tough playing against the Lions because they are an awesome team, I just can wait to get out there throw the ball about and play a bit of that Baba’s rugby.”
“At Ulster we maybe aren’t as free as the Baba’s but we also like to throw the ball about, in Connacht some of Ruan’s passes were awesome and if we get the space we like to throw the ball around and do a few fancy things.”