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22-year-old Hume shining for Ulster as he knuckles down to show potential

The outside centre scored an excellent try in last weekend’s Pro14 final against Leinster.

ON HIS RIGHT BICEP, James Hume has a tattoo of his old school motto, ‘Quaerere Verum,’ which means ‘seek the truth’.

On the inside of the same arm is another bit of body art, an image of a wolf with the words ‘Non desistas’ underneath, a phrase that translates as ‘never give up.’

22-year-old Hume certainly comes across as an honest, determined person and the Ulster centre clearly feels that the best is yet to come from him.

Having made a strong impression in recent weeks for his native province, the former Royal Belfast Academical Institution centre certainly isn’t ready to rest on his laurels.

With the experienced Luke Marshall sidelined through injury, Hume started all four of Ulster’s games leading up to and including last weekend’s Pro14 final, improving with each of them to underline his potential.

james-hume-celebrates-scoring-his-sides-first-try-with-jacob-stockdale Hume celebrates his early try last weekend. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

While it was a bad night for Ulster at the Aviva Stadium last Saturday, Hume’s excellent early try was an indicator of his ability.

“It wasn’t really in our gameplan but I looked before the game at a couple of video reviews and I saw that picture a couple of times,” says Banbridge RFC man Hume of his score.

“I just thought at the start of the game I might try it if they have a bit of a mismatch there, so I just went through with it and it came off.

“I don’t actually remember a lot of after getting the ball and putting it down. It’s a blur. So whatever happened was natural instinct, to be honest.” 

In total, Hume has now made 20 appearances for Ulster but the last few weeks have felt like an upward shift of gear, with the midfielder set for his European debut in Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final clash with Toulouse in France.

“I was speaking to Nick Timoney about it and he says it just hits different because you’re standing in the tunnel and you hear the European Cup music. It’s a bit of an eye-opener.

“Obviously I’ve had the pleasure of watching some big European nights at Ulster against Clermont, Racing, Harlequins and Bath to name a few.

“And they’ve looked like they’re unbelievable matches to be involved in. Unfortunately, I’ve been plagued with injuries and been injured for previous Champions Cup games.

“I’m really looking forward to this week and it’ll probably be another surreal experience playing away to such a big French team in the European Cup.”

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james-hume-scores-the-opening-try Hume is excited about making his European debut. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Former Ireland U20 international Hume has had his fair share of injury issues in recent years and he would likely have missed the second half of the 2019/20 season but for the Covid-19 enforced pause allowing him to recover from a torn hamstring.

Hume got great benefit from the lockdown period in another sense too as he worked on his mental skills, an area where he felt hadn’t been strong enough in recent seasons.

“I found a lot of time to read and do a lot of mental strength stuff because I don’t feel prior to lockdown that I was a mentally tough person, to be honest.

“And I felt that was something I could definitely work on, so I read a couple of books and watched a load of documentaries and stuff.

“It just kind of drove me on when I came back from lockdown, when there are dark times when you’re doing fitness or in a tough part of a session, it’s for the good and it’s definitely going to make you better. That kind of mindset.”

Hume says this area was something Ulster boss Dan McFarland had identified before.

“I’ve had some tough chats with Dan over the past year or two, like when I first came into the seniors, attitude was a wee bit off and again mental strength was just a wee bit off,” admits Hume.

“It was a kind of ‘knuckle down’ type thing, he told me what I do well and just stick to it. It has obviously started to pay dividends over the past while.

“Dan is great and he’s got something to him. It’s unexpected what he’s going to say sometimes, but it’s often knowledgeable.”

james-hume-dejected-after-the-game A dejected Hume after the Pro14 final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Hume has also been improving his rugby-specific skills, particularly his defensive work in the notoriously difficult 13 channel.

Previously, he swapped into the 12 slot for set-piece defence, with Stuart McCloskey defending at 13 “because I wasn’t strong there,” but Hume is now embracing and enjoying that challenge of being an impactful defender at outside centre.

28-year-old McCloskey and Hume have worked increasingly well together over the past month and will hope to have a big impact as Ulster attempt to upset the odds on Sunday.

“Despite the age gap, we get on really well,” says Hume of the midfield partnership. “I’ve been with him every day having good craic as well so when we’re on the pitch together, we’re not afraid to talk to each other or say what we did wrong, all that kind of stuff.

“He’s an unbelievable player so I’m learning stuff off him every training session, every game and I see how much of an influence he has in games. Obviously, the public see a lot of carries and tackles but he does so much more than that. That’s something I can feed off.

“He’s obviously extremely experienced in big games, so he’ll always say, ‘Same as last week, keep doing what you’re doing and I’ll be there to clean up any mess.’ So we feed off each other really well and I’m enjoying that.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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