Jared Payne high praise for Ulster’s high-flying James Hume
James Hume has been one of Ulster’s most influential players so far this season.
The centre was instrumental in last Friday’s win over Northampton Saints, setting up two of his side’s four tries.
Hume - capped by Ireland in the summer - has scored three tries this season and been a constant threat in attack with ball in hand, while in defence he has an 88 per cent tackle success rate and won three turnovers.
Ulster defence coach Jared Payne, who won 20 Ireland caps in the centre and represented the British Lions in his native New Zealand during 2017, believes Hume’s work-rate and attitude are paying dividends.
“I think James is a great example of someone who’s putting in a lot of work off the pitch and it’s shown on the pitch, he’s playing very well but he’s put in a lot of work off the pitch on all aspects of his game, to tell you the truth,” said Payne. “He’s matured a lot in the last year-and-a-half and worked very hard to get to where he is, so it’s good to see him getting the reward.
“He’s still got a bit of work to do on his try celebrations though!
“He’s very good at going out seeking information from other people and asking questions and wanting to learn, so you help him out where you can.
“I think he’s far better than me now, I’m just trying to keep up with him...if he’s got a question, he asks it and you help him out where you can.”
Hume and Stuart McCloskey have firmly established themselves as Ulster’s first-choice midfield partnership and Payne acknowledges having a strong relationship in the centre is vital.
“It’s hugely important, things happen quickly out there in a game of rugby, on both sides of the ball,” he said. “So, if you develop trust and a good connection with the guy you’re playing beside then it helps hugely, because it’s a tough place out there.
“Trust and connection are both massive, those two are working well together but you’ve got to give a lot of credit to Stew Moore too, on the weekend he picked up the bat pretty seamlessly with one or two things.
“There’s a group working really hard behind the scenes and it’s nice to see it coming through on the pitch.”
Ireland has a deep talent pool in midfield at the moment with Bundee Aki, Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose and Chris Farrell but Payne feels if Hume keeps improving it will be hard for Andy Farrell to overlook him.
“He needs just continuous improvement across all aspects,” said Payne. “I know it’s a tough one but there are quality centres everywhere.
“Back in my day, if James was playing the way he is then he’d probably be in the Ireland team, but Ireland are very lucky with the depth they have in that position, the quality they’ve got there.
“For James, that consistency of performance, if he keeps doing what he’s doing and keeps putting his best foot forward, then it’ll be pretty hard for Ireland to be ignoring that.
“Consistency of performance will go a long way towards that and then, in these big games, keep doing what he’s doing and he’s really showing up.
“I don’t pick the Ireland team.
“But, for me, if he keeps consistently doing what he’s doing through this block of games then it’s going to be pretty hard to ignore him.”
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