After a number of XV of Clover selections and a tour with the British Lions, Jared Payne, who was the Ulstermen’s regulator for several seasons, converted to a defense coach. Passionate and brimming with energy, this acknowledged veteran, who has transformed and locked down the Northern Irish defense into one of the toughest in Europe, arrives in Auvergne with serious convictions and a burning desire to transmit and federate. Interview…
What are your first impressions after 5 weeks at Auvergne?
It’s a great place to work, the infrastructure is at a high level, the players put in a lot of energy, there’s a good staff: everything to do a good job. The weather is also very nice…
How did your integration go?
So good, since we made the decision to join the club, so many things have been put in place to help me and ease the transition from one club to another. This hastened my consolidation at Clermont. I received a warm welcome from the staff who all speak English, which helps me a lot as I acquaint myself with the French language. I knew Jono who coached me at Ulster and I even knew Benson who I played with at Auckland Blues and Jonny Claxton who I worked with in New Zealand. All this helped me a lot when I got to Clermont, which everyone recommended to me.
When and why did you decide to choose your career as a defensive coach?
I ended my career with Ulster and Ireland after a concussion (Editor’s note: suffered with the British Lions against the Chiefs in June 2017 during the New Zealand tour). I thought I could bounce back during the year, but I never did: there were still some brain symptoms. At the end of the season, Jono offered me the opportunity to take over the responsibility of the defense in the staff. We discussed it on a Friday and on Monday morning at 7am I took my computer and took up my duties. I wasn’t necessarily ready, but it did me a lot of good to start this new adventure. The staff followed me with all the wishes I could bring to this new career. Things were very clear very quickly, tasks and missions were assigned…it went very well in the end. I was an experienced player, I knew the club very well, how the province of Ulster worked, and even in human relations the transition between player and coach was not that complicated.
Was that an area where you already had a lot of responsibility as a player for Ulster or the Irish team?
Yes I think so. I have always been a player interested in the game and its understanding. When you play in the center you always have responsibilities and decisions, especially in the second center position where you have to organize the defense on the outside. This happens when you play behind and have to reorganize the distribution of the defensive line.
For you, what are the keys to a good defense?
Energy, joy and enthusiasm in everything you do. The group must walk in the same direction, believe in the same thing, and be on the same page. Everyone should adhere to the same philosophy and think defensively in the same way. It has to be built collectively, but when you add to it the energy, fun and determination in every battle and every situation, you have something surefire.
Ideally, how would you describe the Jared Payne defense?
That… “Jared Payne defense” (laughs)… I like to think that guys are eager and happy to defend, they work each other hard and attack every situation that arises with the desire to dominate the opponent. There may be mistakes but the system should be able to correct them through solidarity and collective action. We’ll try going in this direction and see what it yields…
Clermont ended last season conceding more than 22 points / What are the team’s areas of improvement this season?
I think the team already started this improvement last season when Benson was great. He has progressed the players individually and now we need to further frame everyone’s role and find consistency in performance. The players know what they lost last season, with sometimes great defensive lines and sometimes big weaknesses. We will try to work harder when we don’t have the ball to find better positions and move around better to make it more difficult for opposition attackers, while making the team safer in situations where an error could put them in danger.
Is it an evolving system, technology or both…
It is always a combination. As I said, in my opinion, resistance is a way between pleasure, desire and enthusiasm, but it must be connected with the right gestures, the right analysis of the situation and the absolute certainty of working together with each other. . At this final stage are the systems that allow good overall functionality and performance of the “finished product”. The collective will of the team sets the tone of the defense. Throughout the season we must maintain all indicators: desire, technique, and respect for systems, at a high level to achieve performance.
We see you with a lot of energy on the pitch…
(He cuts in) Ah yes!!! (laughs)
Is this a way to compensate for communication before the French catch on?
No, I don’t think so. I am happy to be on the ground to convey my way of seeing things, and I am very enthusiastic about doing so. We are truly blessed to be able to do this job and practice the sport we love. I love the energy that comes off the field and I do my job with passion.
Coming back to communication, is the language barrier a problem…
Sometimes, but quite frankly, I don’t think that much. We always understand each other. Rugby is actually a very simple sport, energy ultimately requires few words… and “body language” is universal!
“When you’re a coach, the most important thing is to see progress, even if there’s a bit of inertia in the beginning, the most important thing is to see things move forward”.
Finally, what are your goals for these preseason matches and the start of the season?
The players are doing well and taking ownership of the principles of our defense every day. I love this progression and implementing these systems every day in training. There is a lot of desire and excitement in this group, I repeat. Of course, mistakes will be made in the two pre-season matches, but this will allow us to correct the situation and further strengthen our collective convictions and understanding. All I want is to see the right attitude and make sure we are all walking in the same direction.
When you are a coach, the most important thing is to see progress, even if there is a little inertia in the beginning, the most important thing is to see things move forward. We know where we are starting from and now we have to give our best to put ourselves in a position to win as many matches as possible.
Tv fanatic. Amateur food maven. Devoted webaholic. Travel lover. Entrepreneur. Evil writer. Beer guru.