|Venue: Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff Date: Saturday, 4 March Kick-off: 19:35 GMT|
|Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Foyle and BBC Sport website|
Ulster centre James Hume says he is determined to recapture his best form after struggling on his return from a groin injury.
Hume was out for four months after picking up the injury on Ireland’s summer tour of New Zealand in June.
The 24-year-old’s recent struggles led to him being left out of Ulster’s travelling squad for last weekend’s United Rugby Championship win over the Sharks in Durban.
“I’m feeling very good,” said Hume.
“It was frustrating not to play [against the Sharks], but if it is best for the squad then I don’t mind at all staying behind and training really hard.
“We actually had a very tough training week last week and then a weekend of recovery, so I like to think I have gone about it in a pretty professional way and it is full steam ahead to Cardiff.”
‘Mentally I have accepted everything’
Speaking before Ulster’s trip to Cardiff on Saturday, Hume outlined his desire to hit the heights which saw him named the club’s player of the year in the 2021-22 season.
“I want to try and get back to the form that I was in last season and towards the end of January before we broke [off for the international break],” added the Ireland international.
“I thought I was going to exactly where I was before the injury when I came back, and I didn’t appreciate how bad the injury was.
“I lost a bit of lateral power which is such a big part of my game which I just couldn’t accept. I had a lot of learning to do through December and January.
“Mentally I have accepted everything and physically I am on the way back up. I know what makes me tick now and I know what a good performance is for me.”
He concedes that he will need to be patient in the run-in given Ulster’s squad depth, which he believes is essential for Dan McFarland’s side to challenge at the highest level.
“I think any squad that is going to win championships needs depth, needs competition and needs players nipping at other people’s heels, so I think it is a positive thing.”
Ireland recall not at the ‘forefront’ of Hume’s mind
Hume’s excellent performances in the Ulster midfield led to him making his Ireland debut against the United States in July 2021.
He won two further caps as a replacement in last year’s Six Nations and secured a spot in Andy Farrell’s squad for Ireland’s tour of New Zealand, but his hopes of earning Test experience against the All Blacks were dashed when he was injured against the Maori All Blacks.
And while Hume insists his full focus is on performing well for Ulster, he hopes a run of strong performances for the province can catapult him back into contention for his country before the Rugby World Cup later this year.
“[Getting called up to the Ireland squad] is not at the forefront of my mind,” he admitted.
“I need to get my stuff right at Ulster first before I can be considered.
“I don’t expect to be there so, if it comes, it comes, but it is my job to use the rest of the season to put my foot forward for the World Cup.”
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