After a fortnight in New Zealand, Ulster full-back Jared Payne is back in Belfast and looking forward to returning to RaboDirect PRO12 action against the Ospreys on Friday night:
“It was great to be home, to give the body a break after a tough few weeks,” admitted Jared Payne, who will be Irish-qualified come next autumn.
“It’s always great to get home to catch up with mum and dad and friends at the beach. When you get to this stage, halfway through the season, the body is a bit banged up and mentally you are fried, as its constant training and match play week in, week out.
“I am feeling refreshed now and am ready to get back into it.”
For many Ulster fans, the Heineken Cup win away to Leicester Tigers is still cause for celebration. However, for Payne that is now in the past and it is back to business.
“With rugby you can’t get caught up on your achievements in the past. You need to focus on the team ahead so despite a great result at Welford Road it is not something that we can dwell on.
“We had time before the break to celebrate that game, we were proud of what we achieved and it’s great to bring the quarter-final home to Ravenhill in front of our home fans.
“But it’s a new week and a new team and it’s time to refocus. We have the opportunity to use this next phase of Rabo games as good preparation for the quarter-final but league wins are also important.
“The Rabo has its only unique challenges so we will be taking it week by week, assessing the competition and trying to improve our game.
“If we get into the top four of the Rabo then once the time comes for the quarter-final the team will be feeling confident,” added the 28-year-old.
And what of Friday night’s opponents, the third-placed Ospreys? The Welsh region are sure to provide stiff opposition, not wanting to lose and allow Ulster to move above them in the table.
“We have been looking a lot at Ospreys this week and what they have to offer, what their strengths and weaknesses are, where we need to attack and what we need to shut down,” said Payne.
“They are a good team, they bring a lot of line speed and they are a physical side so it’s going to be tough come Friday night. Hopefully with the squad we have and everyone getting a rest during the break we will be able to get the win – everyone is feeling confident.”