Jared Payne has committed his future to Irish rugby, signing a new two-year central contract with the IRFU that will keep him with Ulster until June 2018.
New Zealand-born Payne joined Ulster from the Auckland Blues in 2011, and has made 61 appearances for the province. Having made three appearances for the New Zealand Under 21s, Payne qualified to play for Ireland in 2014.
Payne has become the 15th player to be centrally contracted by the IRFU, with Robbie Henshaw and Cian Healy signing new contracts to play at Leinster this week.
The IRFU confirmed the news in a statement on their website, in which Payne confirmed his delight at staying put:
I am very happy to have signed a two year Irish contract to remain with Ulster Rugby. It has been an honour for me to not only pull on the Ulster jersey but to represent Ireland.
Les Kiss was also thrilled with the news:
Jared is an incredibly astute and intelligent rugby player. He adds experience and calm to any backline and will continue to be an important player for Ulster for years to come.
IRFU's Performance Director David Nucifora also offered comment telling the IRFU website that
Jared has illustrated his ability to compete at the highest level and be an important leader and decision maker for both Ireland and Ulster. We are delighted to have secured his services for a further two years.