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Hume aiming to return better than ever after injury

James Hume kicking before his injury
Hume is expected to be out of action until February of 2025 [Getty Images]

Ulster's James Hume says he is looking to forge a "2.0 version" of himself during his recovery from injury and return to rival the appearance records of "those legends" of the province.

The 25-year-old suffered an ACL injury against Cardiff in April and is set for a lengthy spell out of action.

The resulting operation was the sixth major surgery of his career but, despite the string of injuries, he is nearing a century of caps for his province.

"Every time I get injured, it is not due to a weakness, it has just happened," he told BBC Radio Ulster's 'Sportsound' programme.

"Maybe it is bad luck. I've managed to still get 97 caps for Ulster in between. That makes it a bit more bearable, but I want to get back and up to where those legends of Ulster are."

Before his latest setback, Hume had been enjoying a return to form after the lingering impact of the groin injury sustained on Ireland's tour to New Zealand in the summer of 2022.

After winning two of his three Ireland caps from the bench during that year's Six Nations, the centre had travelled for the series seemingly in contention to start one of the Tests against the All Blacks despite Andy Farrell's wealth of options in midfield.

"That season-ending injury on the New Zealand tour, that really stunted me," he said.

"It was a nasty enough one, all three tendons off the bone.

"I was young breaking into that [Ireland squad] and that injury didn't help. Who knows what could have happened if I didn't get injured, maybe I could have played a Test.

"I'm not going to say I should be. I thought I was pretty close in 2022 but I want to get back to that and I want to be in that 13 shirt."

'That was one thing that really scared me'

Although he did play for Ireland 'A' in November of 2022, Hume has not featured for the senior national side since with his provincial team-mate Stuart McCloskey back in favour alongside the established trio of Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw.

Jamie Osborne, another centre, made his debut at full-back against South Africa in Pretoria on Saturday.

Hume, though, still maintains his international ambitions.

"That was one thing that really scared me when I got those few caps, I don't want it to be 'oh he played for Ireland that time, but it was years and years ago'.

"My ultimate goal is to create a 2.0 version of myself coming back from this knee and slowly fight my way back into that position.

"Everything happens for a reason. There's good things to learn from it and I'm just hoping when I get back from this I can carry on the way I was before.

Hume is carried off the field
Hume did not at first realise it was his ACL that he had injured [Getty Images]

Before that comes the lengthy recovery. While Hume did not initially realise the severity of his injury, he is now nine weeks after surgery yet likely will still not see the pitch for another seven months.

"I always do this thing when I get an injury of convincing myself that it's not that bad," he said.

"I was sat at the side of the pitch with the matchday doctors saying 'surely it can't be an ACL, I can do this, I can do that'.

"I had to wait to Monday for the scan and by then it was like a balloon, I could barely walk, but I was in denial the whole weekend leading up to it."

With the rest of the squad still on their pre-season break, Hume's rehab is taking place at a quiet Kingspan Stadium.

"All the boys are away on holiday and I'm in from 9am to 1pm every day with the physio just doing what I can," he added.

"It's kind of nice as well. It's part of the challenge and I'm looking forward to how it tracks on over the next few months."