Jared Payne the latest player to sign new deal with IRFU
There is more good news for Irish rugby as Ulster's Jared Payne has penned a new two-year deal with the IRFU.
"I am very happy to have signed a two year Irish contract to remain with Ulster Rugby," said Payne.
"It has been an honour for me to not only pull on the Ulster jersey but to represent Ireland. There is plenty for us to achieve at Ulster and with Ireland.”
After Leinster prop Cian Healy penned a new three-year deal with IRFU yesterday, the securing of Payne’s future brings an end to what has ultimately been a fruitful and successful round of contract negotiations for the union and High Performance Director David Nucifora.
Since the turn of the year, there has been a groundswell of speculation that Ireland was on the verge of losing a deluge of top players to the cash-laden clubs of France and England.
However, despite much of the contract talks been held with Ireland in the throws of preparing for the Six Nations, only the Leinster duo of Ian Madigan and Marty Moore will be plying their trade abroad from next season at Bordeaux and Wasps respectively.
Over the last month, the Munster trio of Keith Earls, Simon Zebo, Conor Murray have all been locked down to centralised deals, even when it had initially appeared the former pair were set to leave.
And, of course, earlier this week Robbie Henshaw also inked a first centralised contract with the IRFU, while choosing to depart Connacht and the end of the season for Leinster.
Payne, who joined Ulster from the Auckland Blues in 2011, becomes the 15 Ireland player to be centrally contracted, with Jack McGrath expected to be number 16 come June 2017.
The 30-year-old won the first of his 14 caps for Ireland in November 2014 against South Africa and, injury notwithstanding, has been a mainstay of Joe Schmidt’s side.
Filing the void left behind by Brian O’Driscoll would be an unenviable task for any player, but Payne has shown himself to be a midfielder of some repute, particularly in the defensive realm.
This was no more so evident than in Ireland’s loss to France last weekend when, despite injury, he led the rear guard with aplomb. Some have ventured that he’s at his most potent from full-back, but his partnership with Robbie Henshaw has been a bedrock of the Schmidt regime.
Centrally contracted players from 2016/17: Rob Kearney (2018), Andrew Trimble (2017), Tommy Bowe (2018), Keith Earls (2019), Robbie Henshaw (2019), Johnny Sexton (2019), Conor Murray (2019), Cian Healy (2019), Rory Best (2018), Devin Toner (2017), Donnacha Ryan (2017), Peter O'Mahony (2018), Sean O'Brien (2019), Jamie Heaslip (2017). Jared Payne (2018)