Ulster are on the lookout for a new defence coach, after Jared Payne confirmed he will leave the province at the end of the season.

The former Ireland international will end an 11-year association with the province, having joined as a player in 2011 before becoming defence coach upon retiring in 2018.

Ulster Rugby say Payne is leaving to "pursue coaching opportunities overseas".

"A big thank-you to the Ulster community, the fans, players and staff that have made my time here special," the 36-year-old said in a statement.

"I will forever be grateful for the opportunities and experiences that we have shared, and I look forward to hopefully adding to those over these final few months."

Payne joined Ulster in 2011 and played 78 times for the province before being advised to retire in 2018 after complications with a concussion he sustained while on the British and Irish Lions tour the previous summer.

The New Zealand-born centre and full-back played 20 times and scored four tries for Ireland, having qualified under residency rules in 2014.

Payne made his Ireland debut in 2014 against South Africa

Ulster head coach, Dan McFarland, said: "We all know how much Jared has given to Ulster, as a player, and as an important part of our coaching set-up since 2018.

"Jared has helped to shape who we are as a club over the past decade, and what we want to achieve, and his influence will continue to be felt in the years ahead. Jared's desire to learn and improve himself as a coach has been impressive and it has been this spirit, in particular, that has made him a core part of our culture.

"On behalf of myself, the support staff, and the wider club, I would like to thank Jared for his significant contribution to Ulster, and he leaves with our best wishes for this next chapter."

Ulster return to Heineken Champions Cup action this Sunday against the Northampton Saints, where they will be without scrum-half John Cooney.

The 31-year-old limped out of Saturday's defeat to Munster with a calf injury, with the province confirming he will not be available for the Round 3 clash at Franklin's Gardens.

The province are yet to confirm James Hume's availability after he suffered a hamstring injury.

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