Rugby Union

Hume learning the lessons of previous setbacks and now reaping the rewards

PAUL McINTRYE

Heinken Champion Cup: Ulster v Clermont-Auvergne (today, 5.30pm, BT Sport 3)

JAMES Hume has had a few setbacks in his young career. The most notable being a stress fracture to his foot which kept him out of action for seven months four years ago.

Another setback which he felt was equally hard to take was last November.

Just four months previous the Ulster centre was earning his first international cap and with three test matches lined up for the Autumn Series, Hume was confident of adding to his tally.

However, no second appearance was to follow and Hume left the camp bitterly disappointed.

But instead of feeling sorry for himself, Hume knuckled down to improve on his game. The Schools Cup winner with RBAI took note of areas for improvement and kept them in a notebook. Hume would often refer back to this journal during training, before matches and even during some half time intervals to keep himself in check as he strives to take his game to the next level.

And his form for Ulster since November would suggest that Hume is taking all his learnings on board.

After going toe to toe with Robbie Henshaw, Hume scored the decisive try in Ulster's win over Leinster at the RDS before helping to steer his province to three wins from three in the European Champions Cup.

And his reward was being named in Ireland's 37-man squad for this year's Six Nations which kicks off on Saturday week.

Hume now hopes that the improvements in his game since November will be enough to force his way into at least, the matchday 23.

“I had to take a period of reflection after the autumn nations time away. I came back to look at what I had to do and kind of nailed down some focus points that I really needed to work on over the next block of games.

“I feel that it's went well. I've still got a lot to work on, but thus far I've put my best foot forward to get selected for the squad,” said Hume.

Hume's ability to continually break the gain line has been instrumental in the launching of many of Ulster's attacks this season and it plays a pivotal role in the exciting, attack minded approach that Ulster have adopted over the last number of years.

His performances have caught the eye of more than Andy Farrell with kudos coming from all quarters for the 23-year-old, but Hume is determined not to let any of the praise go to his head.

“I like a bit of outside encouragement, don't get me wrong. At the end of the day that's not who I'm trying to impress. It's not my end goal to get these people talking about me.

“It's what I can do for the team. What can I do for myself,” continued Hume.

For this evening's game against Clermont, Hume will be partnered in the Ulster centre by Angus Curtis.

Curtis comes into the side at the expense of Stewart Moore who misses out with a knee injury. It's one of two changes to the side that beat Northampton last week.

The other change comes up front where Eric O'Sullivan comes in for Andrew Warwick who misses out due to concussion.

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