Ulster head coach Dan McFarland was quick to heap praise on James Hume following his outstanding performance in their 36-17 victory over Munster.
The all-Irish URC quarter-final saw McFarland’s side slip five tries past their provincial rivals, including one from Hume, while only conceding three themselves.
Defensively, Hume has continued to develop all season to the point where after the win over Munster his head coach described that aspect of his game as “world-class”.
Best of the best
“It is not a term I use very often,” the Ulster coach told reporters.
“His footwork etc, he’s so strong on the ball as well, has really good acceleration, but his defence is world-class, as a centre.
“Again, I don’t say that very often. World class, as an outside centre – one of the most difficult positions to defend on the field. Don’t get me wrong. He still makes mistakes, because he’s a young fellah, but his ability to make plays out there is really excellent.
“The area of his game that he’s been working on and needs to work in is his distribution skills, his ability to be able to move the ball.
“We’ve got people like Mike Lowry, Jacob Stockdale, Will Addison, Robert Baloucoune, Ethan McIlroy – wingers with pace.
“We need to get the ball to them and other teams know that.
“James needs the ability to move the ball, he did that on Friday.”
Along with the aforementioned try, the outside centre created another two for the side that will go on to face the Stormers in Cape Town this Saturday.
However, it is the superb defensive ability that helps Hume stand out after his drastic improvements in that area, and the young Ulsterman reckons there is one man to thank for this.
“Jared Payne, plain and simple,” Hume said of Ulster’s defence coach.
“Dan and Sopes (Dan Soper) have played a big part in getting me where I am but I don’t think that I’d be anywhere near where I am without what JP (Payne) has done at the club. When he first stepped into that defensive role, I’d genuinely put him up there as a genius defensively.
“He always has an answer for everything you could ask him and I don’t stop asking him questions because I know he’ll have the answer.
“Massive credit to him. It’s still a work in progress. I missed a few tackles which I’m pretty peeved off about but it’s good to have something to work on.”
Earning a spot on Ireland‘s July tour to New Zealand is in the back of his mind, but Hume’s primary goal is winning the URC with Ulster.
“Anything that’s got silver at the end of it matters to us,” he said.
“You love winning games, but you want to win tournaments.
“We managed to back up games over the Champions Cup and I’ve never seen backing up games as an issue for us.
“The only thing that comes into it in terms of backing up is the physical side of things, you know, how many injuries do you have after a game like that? Mentally, it’s not a problem, it’s a Semi-Final and who wants to lose in a Semi-Final?
“It’s a tournament with 16 teams in it that Leinster have dominated for the last five years.
“Anybody that wins it that isn’t Leinster will literally have doubly performed from what you would have expected at the beginning of the year.
“Let’s not kid ourselves, nobody here expected anybody other than Leinster to win this tournament at the beginning of the year.”
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The article Ulster: Dan McFarland praises ‘world-class’ James Hume appeared first on Planetrugby.com.