Master and apprentice: Payne hails Schmidt’s influence on his playing and coaching career

ULSTER DEFENCE COACH Jared Payne has hailed the impact that outgoing Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has had during his time in charge of the national side.

Payne played 20 times for Ireland, with all of those caps coming under Schmidt, after coming over from New Zealand and qualifying under the residency rule before moving on to become defence coach at his adopted province.

Schmidt with Payne and Iain Henderson in South Africa in 2016. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The two Kiwis shared a close bond, with Payne inheriting the role of midfield general in Schmidt’s teams, a reliable defensive organiser in the heart of his backline.

Payne played in all five games of Ireland’s Six Nations triumph in 2015, and he started at outside centre when Ireland first defeated the All Blacks in Chicago in 2016 as well.

And now he’s paid tribute to the man who was at the helm during both of those successes, claiming that Schmidt will not be happy just to walk away from the job in just under a year’s time empty handed.

“He’s a great coach and obviously he’s stepping away in a year or so and he’ll be pretty keen to finish on a high,” claims Payne.

“He was intense and that got the best out of you. I’ve probably pissed him off once or twice by being too relaxed with him.”

What made him such a good coach, then?

“All sorts, everything,” says Payne. “What he wants, he gets that across, and he has an amazing eye for detail and keeps you honest as a player and he’s a nice guy too.

“Put it all together and he’s pretty good.”

The New Zealander has also worked very closely with Schmidt’s successor, Andy Farrell, both as a player and since venturing into the coaching side of the business.

As a player, the pair combined for Ireland, again with Payne a central part of Farrell’s defensive structures in the backline, while they also toured with the Lions in 2017 — where Payne’s playing career came to an end.

But that led to a fruitful relationship off the pitch as coaches, with Farrell providing mentorship to Payne as he transitioned from player with Ulster into their defensive coach — unofficially at first before officially taking the role in May 2018 to go with his retirement.

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It leaves Payne confident that the IRFU have appointed the right man to take over after the World Cup, with the 33-year-old singing Farrell’s praises as a coach.

“Faz is a great coach as well,” he insists. “He’s a bit different to Joe in some aspects but I think he’ll have learnt a lot off Joe and he’s going to put his own slant on it, though I’m not sure exactly what he’ll bring just being a defence coach.

Payne is now Ulster defence coach. Source: Matt Mackey/INPHO

“I’ve been under him, he’s a great guy, gets on with players, knows what he wants and gets his message across the same way as Joe.

“Joe’s exactly the same but just does it in a different manner, but it will be interesting to see how he goes.”

Meanwhile, Ulster and Ireland hooker Rob Herring has thanked Schmidt for his contributions to Irish rugby, describing him as one of the best coaches in the game at the moment.

Like Payne, a first bow in an international jersey came under Schmidt for Herring, who was called up to one of his first squads for the 2014 Six Nations.

“It was obviously big news,” says the hooker, who won seven caps under Schmidt since moving to Ulster.

“His attention to detail is second to none. He expects everything to be exactly spot on and that’s the environment he has brought to Ireland.

“He has the expectation that everyone knows what they are doing and they can fit in like a cog in a wheel and fit into the team environment and to make things better for other players.

“There are definitely things that he has embedded into that side now, just the small habits, that everyone talks about, I don’t think they will disappear when he leaves. So in terms of a legacy, that will be going on for a long time.

“He’s up there with the best.”

Again, similarly to Payne, having been a regular around Ireland squads over the past few years, Herring is well-acquainted with soon-to-be head coach Farrell and also concurs that the right man is taking the reins.

“He’s a great defence coach,” says Herring. “You can see the accolades that he has achieved as a defence coach speaks for itself, and the way he has the boys defending has taken us to a new level.

“He a great guy as well, and he’s the right man for the job when Joe leaves.”

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