Nathan Hughes insists sacrificing a World Cup and building a new life halfway across the globe proves his commitment to England’s cause after qualifying on residency.
Hughes has revealed he suffered some criticism after opting to represent England, rejecting the opportunity to go to World Cup 2015 with Fiji.
Wasps’ Fiji-born number eight is in line for his Test debut during England’s autumn internationals, with the 25-year-old bursting with pride to have made coach Eddie Jones’ Elite Player Squad.
World Rugby could extend the three-year residency qualification period for a nation to select a player born abroad by two years – but Hughes has outlined the challenges of the current system.
“It wasn’t easy. People said ‘you’re not from here, why do you want to play for England, you should be playing for your own country’,” Hughes told Press Association Sport.
“But at the end of the day it’s my decision and it’s my choice, who I want to play for. “I count this as home now. England is where I’ve played for more than three years and I’m comfortable in saying this is home.
“No disrespect, Fiji is always in my heart and my family will always be there. But this is where I play my rugby, this is my bread and butter, over here.”
Hughes left Auckland for Wasps in 2013 and has detailed how seeking a fresh start in a new country on the other side of the world was not always plain-sailing.
“At the end of the day, it’s my decision,” said Hughes. “I had chats with family and friends, talking options and things, and they’ve backed me with my decision and I’m happy to make that decision, to play for England.
“It was a long three years. To be fair when I first came to Wasps that wasn’t in my mind to play for England.
“But as the year went along and I got games under my belt, I felt good, then the second year I got going again, and I came into form. “And then it came into my mind that England could potentially be one of my goals.
“My family and everyone’s delighted, stoked and chuffed for the decision I’ve made as well.
“It is very exciting to have made the England squad, but the easy bit’s done now. I’ll have to battle really hard to keep making the cuts moving forward.
“If I can keep playing well and improving week on week then hopefully the rugby will do the talking.”
Hughes has first-hand experience of Wasps’ transformation from cash-strapped strugglers to Aviva Premiership power, and credits much of that progress to rugby director Dai Young.
Young stuck with Wasps through several lean years searching for a new home, and is now reaping the rewards with his side flourishing on and off the field at their Ricoh Arena base in Coventry.
Wasps currently sit second in the Premiership after making the play-offs last term and reaching the Champions Cup semi-finals.
Young’s side make the trip to Toulouse on Sunday in a bid to stamp an early claim for top spot in Pool Two.
“I’m massively grateful to Dai for both the opportunity to play here and the way in which he’s backed me and helped me improve,” said Hughes.
“I’ve got to grab it with both hands and be grateful for the chance, because I know just how much people would want to be in my spot.
“My game’s come on hugely in the time I’ve been here.
“This is my fourth season now with Wasps. We’ve moved on a lot in that time, it’s a big change.
“I’m happy the club’s moving in the right direction and I want to be a part of it.
“Dai’s been telling us it’s all up to us if we want to win silverware and I think the players he’s brought in and signed are here to do the job and I want to be a part of that as well.”
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Hughes insists he has proved his loyalty to England
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