Playing for Glasgow Warriors meant more to Rory Hughes than a job – it was about representing the city of his birth and the culmination of a belligerent determination to make it in rugby, despite coming from a town entrenched in one of football’s biggest rivalries.
When Hughes received word, then, that there would be no place for him at Scotstoun in the Danny Wilson era, he was gutted, and the Scotland internationalist is among a long list of professional players whose careers have been plunged into uncertainty by the Covid-19 pandemic.
While his search for a new employer continues, Hughes spoke to RugbyPass and looked back on his time at Glasgow, and his spell on loan at Leicester Tigers.
“I loved playing for Glasgow,” he said. “I spoke to Danny Wilson on several occasions and just asked him for his thoughts, because I wanted to stay at Glasgow.
“He told me that he wanted to keep the homegrown players, but that he’s got no budget for me.”
Hughes was never a regular in the Glasgow side under Dave Rennie, and straight-talking Hughes singled Rennie out for some scathing criticism.
“They make you feel like you’re part of something, but at the end of the day, it’s just a business.
“I believe that once you’re in the circle, you believe in everything they’re telling you and you mold yourself on and off the pitch for this culture and the ‘Once a Warrior, Always a Warrior’ attitude.
“If you’re out of the circle, you’re just left on your own.
“Another problem for me was keeping fit. I came through, got in the team and won Scotland caps, then got injured so I had to start again and find my feet there.
“Dave Rennie and I definitely butted heads at times. I’d go and ask him questions, and he’d say one thing but do another and I’d go and pull him up about it, and he’d just talk shite to my face.
“It was a kick in the balls – you get so angry that you think ‘what’s the point in being here’ when you’re getting treated like that.”
By the time Hughes went on loan to Leicester Tigers in January, his relationship with the new Wallabies boss had totally broken down.
“I didn’t really care what he had to say and I didn’t respect his opinion, and probably vice-versa.”
While Hughes admits he’d have jumped at the chance to sign for Danny Wilson’s Glasgow Warriors, he was stuck when asked if he’d have played for Rennie again.
“I’d go back to Glasgow because that was my city and my club, but would I go back if Dave was still there? I don’t know the answer to that.”
A loan spell at Welford Road followed, but Hughes only made four appearances before that was cut short due to the suspension of the season. That wasn’t without its frustrations for the four-cap wing, whose last international appearance came in Scotland’s 2017 win over Australia in Sydney.
“You could see why they were struggling,” he added. “The training was pretty poor and, being around all the coaches I’ve worked with, we’ve always done a lot of skills work, and when I went down there, there were some boys who were just battering rams.
“I thought it was all quite biased to the starting team, so you don’t get too much training out of it unless you’re in that team.”
Hughes also made headlines during his spell at Welford Road for a profanity-laden Instagram video, for which he has since apologised.
“If people come and have a chat with me, they’ll know that I’m not that type of person. I think people would’ve seen that video and thought ‘what a dick’, but I’m not – the video was taken out of context and I’ve apologised for it.”
Not required by Leicester to finish the Gallagher Premiership season, and with Glasgow Warriors unable to keep him on, Hughes admits there have been some difficult days during the pandemic, but he’s trying to keep optimistic.
“It has been tough,” he continued. “Some days you are buzzing and you think ‘right, I’ll make something of this day’ but then you think ‘what’s the point? I’ve got nothing else to do’.
“Being part of that rugby bubble for so many years, and then just not being part of it anymore, sometimes you feel lost and you don’t have a purpose, so it has been tough.
“Everybody goes through it, it’s just shite sometimes.
“I try and talk to a lot of people – friends and my family – and that really helps for a bit of reassurance that things will work out, it might just be a new life.”
“If I couldn’t do rugby then what was the point in me being here… it got to the stage where my partner at the time was terrified of coming home in case I’d done anything”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 28, 2020
The 27-year-old also praised the bravery of his former Glasgow colleague Matt Smith, who spoke about his own battles with mental health to RugbyPass recently.
“I knew he was having some bad days when we were training, but I had no idea it was like that.
“I felt so bad reading that, because it did hit home, and I’m so proud of him for speaking out and for getting help because he’s a cracking boy and he’s got the best personality.”
From the glamour of being a professional sportsman, Hughes is trying to keep busy while he looks for a new club, but he realises that returning to the game full-time in the short-term may not be a realistic expectation, so is looking to other ventures.
“I’m going out and helping my mate doing a bit of landscaping and roughcasting.
“There’s not a lot of contracts out there at the moment, so I’m not sure what’s going to happen. I’ll either have to get a full-time job or get back on the tools.”
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