Ulster’s James Hume is reaping the rewards for dedication to development

Professionalism isn’t just about how you perform during the 80 minutes of a match at the weekend - a lot of unseen work goes in on the training pitch, the gym and your general lifestyle.

By Ciaran Donaghy
Saturday, 22nd January 2022, 8:00 am

James Hume won three Schools’ Cup honours by the time he left RBAI but if he was destined to pursue a career in rugby a lot had to change.

Hume has arguably been Ulster’s best and most consistent player this season and has been rewarded with a call-up to Andy Farrell’s Ireland Six Nations squad.

But it has come due to his dedication off the pitch as well as his stand-out displays on it.

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Ulster’s James Hume. Pic by PA.

“Thinking about my diet in school, it’s almost comical thinking about what I was doing compared to what I eat now,” recalled the centre. “I went with the Irish under 19s in France and I think I hit 104.6kg...I’m currently in the low 96s.”

“Steff, our nutritionist, when I came back she said ‘look, you’ve got to do something about your weight here, you’re far too heavy’.

“Consequently, I ended up getting a stress fracture in my foot, probably from carrying too much weight and I was out for seven months.”

“That period allowed me to get back into shape and it was a big learning curve.

“My girlfriend will tell you, I’m so pernickety with my food, I’m almost scared of eating the wrong food and getting back into those ways.

“It’s a moving beast trying to get the diet right and stay in shape.

“Supporters, pundits...whatever, they see the performance aspect of it (but) the amount of unseen stuff - doing the big shop, getting the right foods in, getting your recovery right, going to ice baths and sea swims just to get yourself back to 100 per cent as quickly as possible, especially with these six-day turnarounds.

“I do feel like it can go under-appreciated, but boys do what they need to do to get right.”

Hume won his first Ireland cap in the summer and was in camp for the Autumn internationals, although got no game time.

However, a chat with Andy Farrell sent him back to Ulster with a point to prove.

“I had a good conversation the day before I left camp before that Argentina game before I came home,” said Hume. “He was just asking me how I thought the Autumn nations went, it was just about consistently being at that highest level and consistently performing there.

“Whether that’s working off the ball, making good decisions, being consistently focused...he said it was in my hands with this block of games what I was going to do with them.

“I could go one way or the other, but it was a positive chat.

“There were a lot of good things said but that was the one thing where I was just falling behind and now it’s about trying to execute that as well as possible.”

With his place in the Ireland squad confirmed Hume turns his intentions to helping Ulster beat Clermont this evening and trying to secure the possible highest ranking for the knockout stages.

“We want to be in the best position possible at the end of these pool stages so we can get ourselves a home quarter,” he said. “We’re treating this as exactly the same as every game we’ve had in the European Cup so far, it’s full steam ahead, the boys are going to be ready.

“We have to take great confidence from that (Clermont away), going to one of the European giants and beating them away.

“There’s an unbelievable atmosphere, unbelievable stadium, great team, great individual players.

“You’ve got to take confidence from that and bring that to our own stadium and get a performance out in front of our own fans.”

Ulster team to play ASM Clermont Auvergne (Heineken Champions Cup, round four, Saturday, Kingspan Stadium, kick-off 5.30pm, live on BT Sport): (15-9) Mike Lowry, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Angus Curtis, Ethan McIlroy, Billy Burns, Nathan Doak; (1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor (Capt.), Kieran Treadwell, Marcus Rea, Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen. Replacements: Brad Roberts, Jack McGrath, Tom O’Toole, Sam Carter, Greg Jones, David Shanahan, Ben Moxham, Craig Gilroy.

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