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Author

Will Carpenter

writes

Posted Wednesday, July 31st 2019

'I'm excited to get started' - Hughes

Amid the change of scenery and a fresh start, Nathan Hughes says familiarity has been key to a smooth transition into life at Bristol Bears.

The number eight made the summer switch from Wasps after six seasons at the Ricoh, but now joins up with a host of former teammates from throughout his rugby career.

It’s a predominantly Auckland connection that sees Hughes rekindle rugby friendships in the West Country, as well as linking up with Bristol director of rugby, Pat Lam, whose son is a former teammate of the Bears’ latest arrival.

“Coming into a team environment where everyone's kind of been together for a couple of years, the first day here it felt like the first day of school,” said Hughes.

“You come in and get new books, meet new people and we started off with a bang.

“So, my first week was very exciting. It was tough, but at the same time, I enjoyed it as well. And as we’ve gone on in pre-season, I’m enjoying it more and more and looking forward to the start of the season.

“There’s definitely an Auckland connection here. Steven (Luatua) and Charles (Piutau), Johnny Afoa, who I know from there, and Chris (Vui) and I played club rugby with in New Zealand.

“Watching Bristol last season and seeing them challenge the likes of Saracens, Exeter, Leicester - you know, Ashton Gate's not an easy place to play for away teams. Anyone who goes there knows that we will fight until the 80th minute in front of a big, loud crowd."

Nathan Hughes, number eight

“I also know Siale (Piutau) from his time at Wasps, so there’s a few familiar faces and that makes it easier to settle in. But everyone has been great and I’m really enjoying myself.

“I knew Pat from when he was coaching the Blues and then I moved over here in 2013, he moved over to Connacht and then I played against his side.

“I always kept in contact and then he made the move to Bristol. I also played with his son Mitch in the age groups together and against his school, so there was a connection there as well.”

It’s still some 78 days until Bristol kick off their Gallagher Premiership campaign with a West Country humdinger against Bath at Ashton Gate – but Hughes says he is already raring to go at his new club.

“We’re already looking forward to that first game against Bath - not a bad way to start against the local rivals in front of a big crowd. I think everyone's looking forward to that game - the whole community.

“But before the big Friday night game, we've got to make sure we’re all ready to go.”

Hughes says Bristol’s ambition and vision, together with his craving for a fresh start, were key factors in his move to Ashton Gate.

The 28-year-old watched Bristol’s progress from afar last season as Pat Lam’s men secured a ninth-place finish and the highest points tally by a newly-promoted side in 12 years. And after being impressed by what he saw, Hughes insists the Bears are ready to kick on again.

“I wanted a bit of a change. I was with was Wasps for six years and I thought a change of environment could kick me on again.

“Moving to Bristol, I know the five-year plan and the vision of the club, so that was also a big factor in my move.

“You could tell (last season) that they were not here to make up the numbers and midway through last season, people were looking at the table and saying, you know what, Bristol could actually push for top four, that's how close it was.

“Watching Bristol last season and seeing them challenge the likes of Saracens, Exeter, Leicester - you know, Ashton Gate's not an easy place to play for away teams. Anyone who goes there knows that we will fight until the 80th minute in front of a big, loud crowd.

“I’m just excited to experience that now for myself.”