James Hume determined to build on extended run with Ulster
Centre James Hume has started 15 of Ulster’s 20 matches this season, with the former schools cup winner becoming an integral part of the midfield.
Ulster still have potentially nine matches left this season starting with Friday night’s Rainbow Cup derby clash against Connacht at Kingspan Stadium and Hume is ready to don the No13 shirt again.
The Rainbow Cup will now be split into two separate tournaments after no solution was found that would allow the South African teams to enter the UK and Ireland.
The Sharks, Stormers, Lions and Bulls had been due to join the 12 Pro14 teams in a six-round competition, starting on Friday and culminating in a final on June 19.
The intention had been for the South African franchises to travel north to Europe for rounds four to six, but logistical obstacles caused by the coronavirus pandemic mean they will now play amongst themselves in ‘Rainbow Cup SA’, while the existing Pro14 teams will proceed with their scheduled fixtures
Looking ahead to Ulster’s opening game, Hume said: “Physicality and mentality is just a given any week you play but emphasised more in some games, I don’t think you need to get rested until you’re older, until you’ve earned it.
“I’m looking to play every game I can, I’m only 22 and I’ve spoken before about injuries and how it was being in development in the senior squad for the first two years.
“So now that I’ve finally got a run of games I don’t want a break, I want to keep going.
“My goal at the start of this season when I came back from lockdown [was that] I wanted to be in the starting 13 and I feel that has gone pretty well so far,” he added.
“I feel like I’m putting the best version of myself forward on the pitch.”
With Stuart McCloskey in and out of Ireland camp and Luke Marshall suffering an injury which has sidelined him since November, Hume has grasped his opportunity.
“The key for me now, obviously Lukey has been injured as well, I want to make it that when he comes back I don’t want to just be happy with alternating, I want to be staying there,” Hume said.
“So it’s up to me not to be comfortable with where I am at the minute and it’s about keeping working and getting better. Every day it’s just about squeezing every drop and fighting for every inch, so that’s something every day I come in and try to focus on.
“Whether it’s stretching, extra passing, gym, whatever, I try to do my best every day and it’s hopefully going to work.”
Ulster defeated Connacht 32-19 at the Sportsground over Christmas, which is a game that lives long in Hume’s memory.
“Connacht away for me was a massive highlight,” he said.
“Jordi Murphy I think was captain and at the start of the week just said that the perception that the Christmas game was a graveyard shift - as you’re basically sacrificing your Christmas - would be worth it and we should go with the attitude that we’re going there to put a massive performance in.
“I remember the atmosphere in the changing room before we went out, everyone had fire in their eyes and we went out and just dominated and it was a very enjoyable game to be a part of.
“It’s hard to do every time as Connacht away is a very hostile place to go to and there are different game plans for different games... physicality and mentality is just a given any week you play but [it is] emphasised more in some games.”
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