Hume feels Ulster must show more belief to land silverware this season
United Rugby Championship: Ulster v Glasgow Warriors (tonight, 7.35pm, Premier Sports 1)
ULSTER have named a strong matchday squad for this evening's United Rugby Championship (URC) opener against the Glasgow Warriors at the Kingspan Stadium.
In all there are nine Irish internationals named in the season opener as Ulster look set to get their season up and running against a Warriors side without a win in Belfast since 2012.
After winning the payer-of-the match award in a recent pre-season victory over Saracens, Ethan McIlroy gets the nod at full-back while Robert Baloucoune lines up on the right wing.
Jacob Stockdale and Stuart McCloskey make their first appearances of the season after they missed the back-to-back pre-season outings against Saracens, while James Hume is handed the number 13 jersey and will partner McCloskey in the centre.
John Cooney and Billy Burns are picked at scrum-half and out-half respectively while Will Addison and Michael Lowry will offer cover on the bench along with Irish U20 international scrum-half Ethan Doak.
After impressing in pre-season, Bradley Robert comes in at hooker for his first competitive start and he’ll be joined in the front row by props Andrew Warwick and Marty Moore.
Sam Carter will captain the side from second row and he is joined in the engine room by Alan O’Connor.
Another Ulster player to gain international recognition over the summer was No 8 Nick Timoney. He’ll be joined in the back row by flankers Sean Reidy and Greg Jones.
As is the case for the backs, head coach Dan McFarland is able to call on a number of experienced replacements for his forward unit.
Rob Herring missed the pre-season outings against Saracens but is deemed fit enough to take his place among the replacements, while the inclusion of Tom O’Toole and Eric O’Sullivan give Ulster an all-international dimension to their front row cover.
New signing Mick Kearney will provide cover for the second and he is also joined on the bench by Matty Rea who will win his sixty fifth Ulster cap if called upon.
It’s a testament to Ulster’s progress in recent years that they can now boast a side which contains nine starting internationals with a further four held back in reserve.
After becoming a mainstay of the Ulster midfield last season, centre James Hume won his first international cap last July in the 71-10 win over the USA and the former Royal Belfast Academical Institution schools cup winner feels that if Ulster are to get their hands on any silverware this season, they must back themselves when it comes to the bigger games.
Referring to the Challenge Cup semi-final defeat to Leicester, Hume said: “We kicked a lot in that Leicester game, maybe lost a bit of control. I think a couple of times we lost during the season we were being a bit too safe and kicking a lot.”
That was in stark contrast to the Rainbow Cup reverse to Leinster.
“We were just confident, and threw the ball around and we ended up taking a lot of edges and scored a couple of good tries so maybe that is something this year that we can really push on in” before adding that after eight tough weeks of pre-season “I’m just looking to forward to getting stuck into the URC. Getting into the actual season. It’s always better those match weeks instead of going pre-season for eight weeks in a row.”
With Glasgow arriving in Belfast a much changed proposition than in recent years, a much more settled Ulster side with the backing of 15,000 supporters, Ulster should record an opening night victory with a bit to spare.