Payne showing early signs of recovery

Ulster utility back Jared Payne is not ruling out a return to action before the end of the season as he continues his rehabilitation on a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Having penned a three-year deal with Ulster in September, the New Zealander was eager to make an impression in the white jersey but he pulled up just 15 minutes into his third appearance and when the injury was examined he was ruled out for the remainder of the season.

Payne’s absence from the squad saw Brian McLaughlin bring in experienced South African fullback Stefan Terblanche who has performed admirably.

Former Auckland Blue Payne has had to watch as his teammates fought their way to the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup and he admitted the recovery process was difficult at the start.

“I was stuck in the house for three or four weeks at the beginning so that was tough,” he revealed. “I was unable to go out and do day-to-day stuff which was frustrating.”

Having completed almost six months of rehabilitation the Kiwi is in a more positive mind frame with Ulster physio Alan McCaldin helping Payne on his road to recovery.

“I’ve been in the gym from 10 in the morning to 1 or 2 in the afternoon most days. I’m starting to get some strength back in the ankle now.”

“It is general fitness stuff, weights, boxing and ropes and rehab exercises. I’ve been in the swimming pool as well to do a bit of aqua jogging.

“But my workload has been mainly upper body weights but I’m slowly increasing my load on the lower body.

“Alan has my targets all planned out as to where he wants me to be at certain times during my recovery so I’m trying to stick to those.

“But I’m just taking each week as it comes; if it’s feeling good then I’ll crank it up a bit but if it’s not then I’ll slow down.”

After a frustrating opening season with the northern province, Payne is eager to make amends when he finally togs out for Ulster again.

While he would love to recover in time to play a part in the remainder of this season, he is determined to be in top shape for the start of next season’s campaign.

“The rehabilitation is going well and I’m looking forward to getting back out on the pitch to be honest with you.

“We will have to see how things go. I might not be back for the end of the season but I’ll be ready to get a full pre-season behind me and make up for lost time next season.”

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