By Tony Tighe
Last Updated: 28/05/18 10:39am
Ireland international Jared Payne has been forced to retire from rugby and will move immediately into coaching with Ulster.
The 32-year-old sustained a head injury while playing for the British and Irish Lions during last year’s tour of his native New Zealand and failed to sufficiently recover.
Payne was sidelined for the entirety of this season with Ulster as he battled recurring headaches but got involved in the coaching side, and has now accepted a full-time role under new head coach Dan McFarland.
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“While I will undoubtedly miss the buzz of running out with mates every weekend, I have to listen to the medical advice and unfortunately give up the dream,” said Payne.
“However, I’ve surprised myself how much I have enjoyed coaching and I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into this role on a permanent basis.”
Payne joined Ulster from the Blues in 2011 and made 78 appearances for the province. He qualified for Ireland through residency and won the first of his 20 caps against South Africa in 2014.
He won a Six Nations the following March as Ireland retained their crown and scored a try in their historic win over the Springboks in Cape Town in 2016.
Ulster’s operations director Bryn Cunningham said: “It is with sadness that we have to accept that Jared’s days of playing professional rugby are behind him. He was a fantastic player who was exceptionally gifted, having had a huge influence in the game in both attack and defence.
“While we will lose Jared’s ability on the pitch, we now gain another astute rugby brain on the sidelines.
“We have known that this would be a potential outcome for some time and integrating him into the coaching side of things over the past few months it has proved to be very successful.
“The positive feedback from senior coaches within Irish Rugby and players themselves is testament to the early impression he has made.”