Nathan Hughes may have had to outshine many leading lights to win Green Flag Forward of the Season, but teammate Joe Simpson believes that is exactly what Wasps’ stellar No.8 has done all year.
In an impressive campaign for many Wasps that saw the likes of Simpson, Elliot Daly and Christian Wade dazzle Aviva Premiership Rugby, it was often Hughes who stole the show.
The 23-year-old topped the turnovers won chart this season with 24 in 20 appearances, while his surging runs and deft offloading ability terrorised opposition defences.
His superb performances saw the Fijian-born player rewarded with the Green Flag Forward of the Season gong at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Awards, held at the London Hilton on Park Lane.
Hughes was unable to attend Wednesday night’s bash as he awaits the birth of his first child in New Zealand, with director of rugby Dai Young accepting the award on his behalf.
And despite having fended off a shortlist that included Samu Manoa of Northampton Saints, Billy Vunipola of Saracens and Exeter Chiefs duo Dave Ewers and Thomas Waldrom, Simpson is confident the best is yet to come from Hughes.
“Nathan Hughes has been a revelation,” he said. “He came in last year and you could see what an extremely talented player he is.
“What raw potential he has – he has not been playing that long and he still cuts teams to ribbons on occasions.
“He is doing it consistently too, his hitting, his carrying, and his overall control at the base of the scrum is something that I am massively influenced by. That has come on leaps and bounds.”
Hughes’ rise to prominence is all the remarkable given he only took up rugby age 17, having played hockey for the majority of his youth.
After making the transition to rugby as a lock, Hughes also spent time in the back row, doing enough to convince Young that he was worth signing in 2013.
And having been richly rewarded for that decision, the Wasps director of rugby is hoping there is plenty more to come from his star forward.
“He's an amazing player and an amazing bloke to work with,” said Young. “It's a shame he couldn't be here tonight because his wife is giving birth, but he fully deserves the award.
“It's been great for everyone to get the move sorted and hopefully with players like Nathan we can build on to better things.”
Dave Ewers – Exeter Chiefs
Nathan Hughes – Wasps
Samu Manoa – Northampton Saints
Billy Vunipola – Saracens
Thomas Waldrom – Exeter Chiefs
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