Hume happy to bank his first championship minutes

Ulster centre wasn’t really expecting a run until later in the Six Nations

You could feel for James Hume. The Ulster centre came into the game in the 62nd minute. All good. It is just that Ireland were 29-0 ahead. As an impact replacement, the game against Wales didn't need turning. It needed nursing home.

But for his stretch in Aviva Stadium, Hume is grateful. It is not an easy task to elbow out Bundee Aki or Garry Ringrose. Hume will take his first Six Nations Championship pitch time minutes and bank them.

“Yeah it was a nice scenario to come into obviously, 29-0 up, but a tough situation with Wales wanting to play and get some points and us wanting to push on and get some points as well,” he says. “Yeah so, it was a tough game to get involved in, the last 20 minutes. But I absolutely loved it.

“I knew that the calibre of player wasn’t going to be the different thing because I’ve played against some world-class players over the last two years and if I could be calm and not let the occasion overtake my head I would be alright.”

Because of the names ahead of him with Robbie Henshaw there too, Hume wasn't really figuring on a run until later in the competition. But when Keith Earls picked up an injury in Portugal in last week's camp, Andy Farrell looked to the Ulsterman.

“It was just on the pitch because there were a couple of injury doubts and I think Earlsy was originally on the bench and he said ‘Earls is out, you’re on the bench’ and I was like ‘sweet, perfect’. That’s it.

"I was preparing as though I was going to be playing in the first game but the way things were lining up with Robbie, Bundee and Garry, I really wasn't expecting much until the Italy game. To get the call-up for that first game was a great moment. I just had to try to keep calm and composed and do my best."

It is eye-opening how often the ability to keep calm comes up with players. If not the day can end in ruins and with a first full crowd for years at a home match, pressure was the order of the day. Keeping calm was one of the first things Hume scratched onto his diary.

“I wrote down a load of stuff myself in my notes,” he says. “I almost made a completely separate page when I found out I was on the bench and just wrote everything down that would reassure me when my mind started wandering.

“Like, ‘what if this happens, what if that happens, what if I get really nervous, what if I go on in the first minute’ type of thing. I’ve just got those little reminders of why I’m there and the sacrifices I’ve made to get there. I’ve played at a good level before. It’s just another step-up. It’s where I want to be.”

In the eyes of many, it’s where he deserves to be too.

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