Hume rises to the occasion
Playing against a British Lion and a Grand Slam winner was a big enough task for Ulster centre James Hume against Leinster on Friday night without the added pressure of the Ireland head coach watching on from the RDS stands.
While Ulster were on the wrong end of a 21-17 Rainbow Cup score line which ended any lingering hopes of silverware this season there were plenty of eye-catching performances from players in white shirts including Hume.
The former Schools’ Cup winning midfield had 14 carries, made two clean line breaks and beat three defenders. He also contributed to the defensive error by winning a turnover, but Hume had put any thoughts of impressing Andy Farrell ahead of Ireland’s summer tests against Japan and the USA to the back of his mind.
“I saw Andy Farrell as I ran out, you just kind of think, ‘oh, God,’ and try and blank it out,” he said.
“It’s one of those things, it’s great he’s watching and I do want to put myself out there, but it’s not what I’m focused on in this game, I’m focused on my job and trying to do as well as I can.
“Ireland involvement in the future would be great and if it comes, awesome, I’ll be ready for it.”
Hume enjoyed his midfield duel with Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose.
“That’s what I’ve been looking forward to all week, if I want to take the next step in my game, I need to push myself against a Lions centre and nearly another Lions centre,” he said.
“They’re both quality players, I thoroughly enjoyed the battle and I think I did well enough to hold my own.”
Despite pushing the Pro14 champions close it was an 18th defeat in 19 visits to Dublin for Ulster against Leinster.
“I know it was a loss but that’s probably the most enjoyment I’ve taken from one of our performances in quite a long time to be honest,” reasoned Hume.
“We spoke during the week about backing ourselves, moving the ball, not being afraid to offload and I think that showed. I know the result didn’t go our way but I think the boys are proud of the effort that we put into the game.
“It’s always frustrating in a one-score game, could we have done more to prevent their try early in the game? Yeah, that’s one thing to look back on.
“That’s obviously a big factor in the grand scheme of the game, there was real effort at the end of the game, I thought our fitness looked sharp, the boys have worked hard all season.
“It is frustrating but it’s what we can do more through minutes 60, 70 to help ourselves in those last ten minutes.”
It was a fourth consecutive defeat for Ulster meaning there is nothing at stake in the last two games of the season against Scarlets and Edinburgh.
“It’s been a tough kind of three weeks since that Leicester game,” said Hume.
“Personally, I’ve spoken about mental strength and stuff but this has been the most I’ve been challenged in my career.
“After that defeat, it was just heart breaking, trying to turn that round into a competition where we lose the first two games, that’s tough.
“But I felt like we flipped a switch at the start of the week, we said let’s go out and enjoy our rugby, let’s enjoy what we’re doing. I think we hadn’t been focusing on that, just how much we enjoy our jobs, day in, day out.
“We went out there and showed what we can do, obviously there’s still a bit of work to go but that kind of philosophy that we had was thoroughly enjoyable and hopefully the fans enjoyed it more.”
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