Jared Payne still out of action with headaches after training
Ireland and Ulster centre has not played any rugby since suffering a head injury in June
Jared Payne: has suffered headaches after training since returning from the British and Irish Lions tour in the summer. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
The head injury causing so much anxiety to Ireland and Ulster centre Jared Payne has improved but Ulster do not have a timeline for the return of their Lions back, who has not played any rugby since June.
Payne, who has suffered headaches after training since returning from the British and Irish Lions tour in the summer, has been receiving constant medical attention for his condition.
But Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss said that while Payne has improved he has not reached the stage where Ulster can say he is healthy enough to return to playing for the province or even take part in full contact training.
Payne, who has 20 caps for Ireland and made one appearance with the Lions is now 32-years-old and has two young children.
“I think first and foremost we have approached it player first and the welfare of the players is paramount and that’s been our focus,” said Kiss. “He’s been through a pretty torrid time with the kidney [injury] and now he’s come back with this situation.”
Have the symptoms eased, Kiss was asked.
“Yeah, they have,” he replied.
Is that a recent thing?
“No,” added Kiss. “I think it’s been gradual. It’s been up and down a little bit…I don’t want to talk about medical things without permission from him but there’s been a lot of investigation done and gradual methods to expose him to high levels and see how he responds.
“He’s a man with a big heart and he wants to put that jersey on. But we want to be smart and make sure it’s the right timing.”
There is an element of wait and see what happens as it has been over six months since he played competitive rugby.
Payne has received the best medical attention and the coach insists the conversations about his future have been positive and they remain optimistic about the New Zealand-born Irish resident returning to play. His contract is soon due for renewal.
“Conversations are about where are you today? How did you respond to the session yesterday,” explained Kiss.
“We can throw out a word or a term and put a label on it. That would be inappropriate. What we need to do is represent this in his best interests. We are doing everything possible to look after the welfare of Jared for a number of reasons.
“First he’s a wonderful human being, he has a young family. He is so important to Ulster, so important to Irish rugby. He wants to get out and play. That’s our. responsibility and our duty. And we’ll get there.”
Ulster centre Darren Cave had a similar episode of worry after sustaining a head injury against Glasgow earlier this year. After undergoing Head Injury Assessments, Cave took around six months to recover.
He was injured in February and after being diagnosed with vestibular dysfunction did not line out for Ulster until matches in August. There is no suggestion Payne has the same condition.
Can you say for definite he will be back and can Ulster be sure that it’s not if but when he will be back, Kiss was asked.
“We are doing our best to make sure . . . I won’t give an answer to that because it will be used,” he said.
“But the bottom line is what is best for Jared, and we’re doing everything possible to make sure it’s right so that we don’t have to raise a doubtful question or have a headline that says something...
“It’s important we don’t have that because it’s a person, and that’s at the foremost of my interest, and we’ll get there, I’m pretty confident that we’ll get there.
“And I’d like to close that subject off...”