16 May 2017

Payne says he's a true green Irishman

7:27 am on 16 May 2017

British and Irish Lions fullback Jared Payne has defended his selection to face the All Blacks next month.

Ireland's New Zealand born centre Jared Payne.

Ireland's New Zealand born centre Jared Payne. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

New Zealand-born Payne has come under fire from former Irish lock, Neil Francis, who says the 31-year-old shouldn't be playing for Ireland, let alone the Lions, because he wasn't born there.

In his weekly column in the Irish Times, Francis said there's no question over Payne's playing ability but called his eligibility for the green jersey a farce.

Payne played four seasons of Super Rugby for the Crusaders, Chiefs and Blues before joining Irish side Ulster in 2011.

He qualified to play for Ireland under the three year residency rule in 2014 and has earned 20 caps, including last year's emphatic win over the All Blacks in Chicago.

Payne said while he respects Francis' comments he disagrees.

"It comes with the territory doesn't it. I've always said people are entitled to their own opinion, I'm more of about the guys that you play with, if they will accept you and happy with everything then that's what counts to me.

"Throughout my time with Ireland and hopefully with the Lions everyone's always been more than welcoming and never brought it (his eligibility) up so it's no skin off my back," Payne said.

Asked whether he was still a New Zealander at heart or a converted Irishman, Payne admitted to the latter.

"It's the longest I've ever been in one place now in Belfast.

"My Fiancé, she's from Belfast, I've got a nine month old baby boy who was born over here and a house and a dog, the whole nine yards really so I'm well and truly converted and can't see myself going too far in the near future."