Jared Payne: Ireland debutant not bothered by commitment jibes

Jared Payne talks tactics with Robbie Henshaw at Ireland training on Friday
Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw will form a new Ireland centre partnership against South Africa on Saturday
Autumn international: Ireland v South Africa
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin Date: Saturday, 8 November 2014 Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, Radio Ulster and BBC Sport website

New Zealand-born Jared Payne says he is not bothered by those who question his commitment to Ireland's cause as he readies himself for his international debut against South Africa.

Payne, 29, and Robbie Henshaw, 21, will form a new centre partnership in Saturday's game in Dublin as the post-Brian O'Driscoll era begins in earnest.

"They [the sceptics] can think and say what they like," says Ulster's Payne.

"It's not for me to tell them what to think or say."

Ireland's autumn internationals
OppositionDate
All fixtures at Aviva Stadium, Dublin
South AfricaSaturday, 8 November
GeorgiaSunday, 16 November
AustraliaSaturday, 22 November

Payne, who also had spells in Super Rugby with the Waikato Chiefs, Crusaders and Blues, said those who doubted his commitment to the Irish cause should consider what he potentially gave up.

"It was a huge decision for me to take as, by agreeing to move to Ulster, I was saying goodbye for ever to the possibility of playing for the All Blacks," said Payne, who represented New Zealand at under-21 level.

"However, in the end I decided 'why not take the chance?'

"I have lived in Ireland for the past three years and I am pretty passionate about the Irish national side, to the extent that I came and watched all their matches last season and the November Tests last year."

Making an international debut represents an examination of character but being handed the number 13 jersey worn by the iconic O'Driscoll will increase the focus on Payne.

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Payne & Henshaw 'deserve chance'

But the laidback Tauranga-born player appears to be unruffled by all the attention.

"Now that it has happened I am really stoked and very proud. This is a great opportunity for me and I intend to take it," he said.

However, Payne acknowledged that he and Henshaw, who has only three Irish caps, will face a daunting centre task against Springboks captain Jean de Villiers and Jan Serfontein.

"This is probably the biggest game I've played in apart from a Super Rugby semi-final, but this is why I play rugby - to accept the challenges laid down," says Payne, who has played most of his rugby at Ulster at full-back.

"Robbie is a very good ball carrier and confident too and we've worked well together in training.

"It is true I have been more used to playing full-back so I'd better expect to make more tackles."

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