Jared Payne's Auckland return brings career full circle

Four years ago he left the Blues to move to Ulster

BY Daniel Kelly 08:19 Tuesday 6 June 2017, 8:19 6 Jun 2017

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Photosport

Jared Payne will become a Lion on Wednesday, when the team play the Blues in Auckland.

Unlike his teammates, the Ireland centre will be doing so on familiar ground. Four years, after playing against the Lions for the Barbarians, Payne will line up in the centre alongside Robbie Henshaw.

After spells with the Chiefs and Crusaders in Super Rugby, it was at the Blues where Payne impressed. He only spent one season with the Auckland-based team before moving to Ulster in 2011.

Despite leaving the Super Rugby giants after a single season, his departure was deemed as a blow to those in Auckland.

"He's a real communicator, gets a really good feel of what's happening around him and feeds that on. He's a class player", Pat Lam, the then-Blues head coach told Stuff just before the move to Ulster was confirmed.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday's game against the Blues, Warren Gatland revealed that one of the main reasons Payne was selected in the squad was due to his background in New Zealand.

"One of the reasons Jared was picked on this tour was because of his experience, and his experience in New Zealand and being involved with the Blues, and the fact he's played in a lot of big games where Ireland have won. He's been one of the key components of their success."

On Wednesday, four years after leaving, Payne returns to Auckland in a position he could never have dreamed of finding himself in.

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