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Ex-England rugby forward eyes switch to Fiji

Wednesday 12 January 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Fiji, Regional

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Ex-England rugby forward eyes switch to Fiji
Fiji-born former England number eight Nathan Hughes. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Former England rugby international and Number 8 Nathan Hughes has announced his availability to play for his country of birth, Fiji.

Under the new World Rugby rules, Hughes can wear the Fijian jersey.

But Fiji Rugby Union chief executive John O'Connor said the final decision is with Flying Fijians' coach Vern Cotter.

Following a dismal 2021 international season, Cotter could have an influx of new players heading into the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

Hughes joins several other players vying for a spot in Cotter's side including former All Blacks Seta Tamanivalu and Waisake Naholo, and Wallaby Tevita Kuridrani.

Fiji missed an 'enormous opportunity' to beat Wales on their European tour that saw Cotter stuck in New Zealand due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cotter and the rest of the Fijian coaching group were unable to travel to Europe.

Gareth Baber, the former sevens gold medal winning coach, took charge of a Fijian side with majority of European-based players.

The Flying Fijians best Spain 43-13, lost to Wales 38-23 and drew 15-all with Georgia.

Cotter told rugbypass.com the main challenge heading into 2022 - a year before the Rugby World Cup in France - is to "develop new habits that will give us more opportunities to be competitive at the top level."

New Fiji rugby coach, Vern Cotter
New Fiji rugby coach, Vern Cotter Photo: Photosport

Hughes' road to success

In 2009, Hughes was scouted by Kelston Boys' High School when they toured Fiji the year before. He arrived in New Zealand on a partial scholarship.

In his first year, Hughes scooped the team player of the year award. He also made the Auckland Under-18 team and he followed it up by making the Auckland U20 team while still playing for his 1st XV, Kelston Boys side. And because of his superb performance, he joined the Auckland High Performance Academy.

In January 2012, he returned to Fiji to take part in the invitational Uprising 7s missing the New Zealand 7s team trials for a chance to represent Fiji.

He played for the Auckland Invitational side coached by former Fiji 15s coach, Wayne Pivac. He also helped Auckland win the NZ 7s Championships in 2012.

Hughes made his debut off the bench for Auckland against Otago in the 2011 ITM Cup.

In February 2013, he was selected by the then Fiji 15s coach, Inoke Male to join the Fiji Warriors team for the 2013 Pacific Rugby Cup.

In March 2013, he signed for English Premiership side, Wasps and had strong performances in the 2013-14 Premiership season.

In January 2019, Hughes signed a three-year contract with Bristol Bears. He is also eligible to play for Samoa.

Other Fijian players who have indicated they want to join the Fiji side are former Wallabies' Taqele Naiyaravoro and Tevita Kuridrani, former All Blacks Seta Tamanivalu and Waisake Naholo, and former France winger Noa Nakaitaci.

If given the nod, Hughes joins a dynamic Fijian backrow which includes the likes of Viliame Mata, Peceli Yato, Albert Tuisue, Mesulame Kunavula, Johnny Dyer and Masivesi Dakuwaqa, among others.

Fijian Jone Kubu is vying for a spot in Kenya's sevens rugby team.
Fijian Jone Kubu is vying for a spot in Kenya's sevens rugby team. Photo: Supplied

Fijian makes Kenyan 7s squad

Fijian Jone Kubu has been named in Kenya's squad preparing for the third and fourth legs of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

Kubu is the first Fijian player to feature for any Kenyan rugby side.

He first played for the African state during the 2021 Rugby Africa Cup.

He had featured for the Samurai, Waimanu and Uluinakau 7s teams in Fiji before moving to Kenya.

Head coach and former Kenyan rugby legend, Innocent Simiyu, named 27 players in the camp including Kubu, who was part of the Kenya Simbas squad in 2021.

"Kubu is joined by clubmates Derrick Ashihundu and Kevin Wekesa, who made his 7s series debut in 2021," Simiyu told Scrummage.

The Spain leg for the Malaga and Seville 7s tournaments will be held on January 21-23 and January 28-30.

At Malaga, Kenya has been pooled alongside France, Canada and Wales in Pool D.

Fiji is in Pool A with South Africa, England and Scotland.

Australia, Ireland, Japan and New Zealand make up Pool B while Argentina, United States, Spain and Samoa are in Pool C.