Since signing for Wasps in March 2013, Nathan Hughes has earned a reputation as a barnstorming back-row forward and qualified by residence for England at the end of June last year. His first Test appearances followed off the bench against South Africa and Fiji in November and he made an impact on his first start against Australia in the final match of the Old Mutual Wealth Series in the absence through injury of Billy Vunipola. He carried the ball 18 times, of which nine constituted breaks of the Australian defensive line. The ground he gained was close to 100 metres and he made 12 tackles.
Nathan also exerted an important influence during England’s 21-16 victory over Wales in Cardiff this February, carrying the ball 22 times. He was also the top carrier on either side with 14 in the next game against Italy. His most impressive performances so far include that on his 26th birthday when England beat Argentina 38-34 in the first Test at San Juan this June. He won his tenth cap the following week at Santa Fe and scored his maiden try against the same opponents at Twickenham in November after an unstoppable run towards the corner.
Born in the sugar-producing city of Lautoka, he was already eligible to play for Fiji by birth, Samoa through his mother and New Zealand on residency. Nathan arrived in England after being contacted by Dai Young, the Wasps director of rugby, having not been given a Super Rugby contract by Auckland Blues. Young was looking for a like-for-like replacement for Billy Vunipola, who had gone to Saracens.
Hockey was Nathan’s childhood sport. He represented Fiji Schools and started playing rugby only eight years ago at the age of 17. He said: “I was doing hockey training one day at school and the rugby coach asked if I wanted to play against a team coming from New Zealand because he didn’t have any locks.” His schooling was at St Thomas High and Kelston Boys High. Little did he know that by early October 2016 he would have scored 15 tries in 59 Aviva Premiership games and go on to win three England caps. In 2014/15 Nathan plundered ten tries in 28 appearances for Wasps and in January last year signed a contract extension with the club. He has played in 68 Premiership matches and scored 15 tries so far.
He had made his debut off the bench for Auckland against Otago in the 2011 ITM Cup, having played for the province’s U18 and U20 teams and in February 2013 was selected by the then Fiji coach Inoke Male to join the Fiji Warriors squad for the Pacific Rugby Cup and was appointed as vice-captain.
Deft footwork, sleight of hand and offloading are among the prime assets that made him the Aviva Premiership Player of the Month for November 2015 and since coming to Wasps he has impressed in a world class back row that last season also featured James Haskell and George Smith.
5 points - 1T
2016 SA(R), Fj(R), A 2017 F, W, It, S, I(R), Arg (1,2), Arg, A
Last updated: 19 November 2017