Lions pick ex-Northland skipper

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Former Northland skipper Jared Payne has been selected for the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand. Photo/Photosport.nz

A familiar face for Northlanders will be on display in the red and white of the British and Irish Lions team.

Jared Payne, now plying his trade for Ulster and Ireland, was a surprise inclusion in Warren Gatland's 41-man touring party and is a chance to play on his former hunting ground in the tour opener.

When speaking to his club, the centre/fullback said he wasn't expecting the selection.

"It was a pretty big shock, you don't get too many of them these days but it's come right out of the blue for me. Obviously I'm hugely proud and over the moon but quite surprised as well," he said.

"I imagine it will be a proud moment for my family. Got a text from mum and dad and my partner and they're over the moon as you can imagine.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet."

Payne played 38 times for Northland before heading to Ireland in 2011.

He qualified for Ireland under the three-year residency rule in 2014 and won his first cap against the Springboks in November of that year, quickly becoming one of Ireland coach Joe Schmidt's go-to players.

Payne stood out for Ireland in the final match of the 2017 Six Nations which bolstered his chances of making the cut.

He will be joined on the plane by Ulster teammates Rory Best (hooker) and Iain Henderson (lock/flanker). Payne said it would be good to be in familiar company.

"It's great for Ulster, there will be a few friendly faces on the trip. Those two have worked bloody hard over the last two years and it's good to see them be recognised."

Lions assistant coach Andy Farrell said Payne would be a real asset to the squad.

"He's a very experienced guy, who galvanises the backline, makes other people around him very comfortable," he said.

The Lions start their tour in Whangarei where they will take on the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians. Northland forwards Matt Matich and Josh Goodhue have been named in that squad.

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