Ever since Chiefs game I haven't been quite right, admits Payne
Jared Payne has opened up for the first time about the head injury nightmare which has kept the Ulster and Ireland player side-lined since last summer's Lions tour.
The 32-year-old has been unable to play a competitive game since suffering a bang to the head in last June's Lions game against the Chiefs and recurring headaches have persistently stalled his hopes of making a comeback.
"Ever since then (the Chiefs game) I haven't been quite right," Payne revealed."It's been a bit stop-start, there have been times when it hasn't been too bad and other times when it's been pretty bad.
"We've given it a few cracks at different things to get it right and trying to get back (playing) but unfortunately nothing has cleared everything up just yet."
The Irish-qualified Kiwi, who is out of contract at the end of the season, is currently helping out with defensive coaching at Ulster in the aftermath of Les Kiss's departure last month.
However, the talented playmaker, who can operate at centre or full-back, seems to have not entirely dismissed his hopes of being seen on the pitch again.
"We'll see how we go with a bit of rest over the next month and see where we go from there," he added.
He played, and scored a try, when the Lions defeated the Chiefs back in June, in their last game before the Test series kicked off, but was then stood down for their final non-Test clash against the Hurricanes due to persistent headaches.
"I was playing in that Chiefs game and took a bit of a whack towards the end of it," Payne said on Ulster Rugby TV. "I had to come off but I didn't think anything of it, (I was just) a little bit 'headachy' and sore that week, but nothing too bad. Come the captain's run day for the next game, I think it was the following Tuesday, I got back on the bus and felt a bit travel sick, pretty yuck."
Payne is now assisting head coach Jono Gibbes in the tweaked coaching structure since Kiss left which may be an indication of his future plans.
Payne explained: "I've been helping out with the coaches a bit, wherever they need me. I'm happy to help out. I'm doing a bit of work now on the defence side of things."
He was last seen in an Ulster shirt in April 2017 in the home draw with Cardiff Blues and missed the last three games of the campaign ahead of the Lions tour.
He previously togged out for Ireland nearly a year ago when he won his 20th cap in their final-day Six Nations win over England in Dublin.
Payne has played 78 games for Ulster after signing for them in 2011.