Top 14: Clermont snap up Jared Payne, Toulouse injuries pile up

Lawrence Nolan

Clermont have announced that current Ulster defence coach Jared Payne will be marshalling the yellow wall at the Marcel Michelin next season.

The 36-year-old will thus reunite with former Ulster head coach Jono Gibbes, who has been coaching Clermont for a season already. Payne has signed a two-year contract.

Saved by the Bell

Jonny Bell will take Payne’s position at the Kingspan, but they will be tough boots to fill, with Ulster’s defence the tightest in terms of points per game in the United Rugby Championship.

Toulouse will have to knock that defence down in the Champions Cup this coming weekend, but the team is ridden with injury concerns.

Antoine Dupont missed training on Tuesday and Wednesday for as yet undisclosed reasons, and there are also injury clouds hanging over Pita Ahki (knee), Francois Cros (hip) and Cyril Baille (fatigue).

Toulouse coach Ugo Mola did not go so far as to criticise the national team, but he did issue a veiled criticism of the long season and relentless fixture schedule, insisting he would not risk his players unduly.

“We’re paying for the demands of the XV of France and especially getting such a high-level match against Ulster immediately after, who hit hard for 39 minutes of playing time. Inevitably, it leaves traces,” said Mola.

“I would love to tell you so much the better, at least it means that we play very high-level matches and there is nothing more formative. However… it is up to us to find a certain balance.

“Today, of the ten internationals who have finished the Grand Slam adventure, the last three matchdays of the France team, seven have been affected by direct or indirect injuries post-tournament.

“They’ve barely had a rest, so I’m going to give them a few days obviously after Ulster, because I have no choice and I don’t want to take a risk with their health. But I am fully aware that we are not alone in this as well.”

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