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'We're sorry to see him go': Hughes' loan deal at Bath is over

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Nathan Hughes’ loan at Bath will end next Monday, leaving the No8 returning to Bristol to see out the final months of his existing Bears contract back at Ashton Gate. Bath had recruited the ex-England back-rower in January to help alleviate an injury crisis and he has since played six times in the Gallagher Premiership for them – two appearances more than the four he has managed in the league during 2021/22 for Bristol. 


However, this Saturday’s game at Exeter will be Hughes’ last involvement for Bath as he will return to his parent club ahead of Bristol’s two-legged round of 16 Heineken Champions Cup tie versus Sale. 

Bath head coach Neal Hatley explained: “Nathan has made a fantastic contribution on and off the field over the past two months and we are sorry to see him go. However, as both us and Bristol turn our attention to European competition, the simple fact that he is registered only to play for Bristol in Europe means he must return there.

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Nathan Hughes – A Fijian Ferrari, Bronco Tests and Playing for England | RugbyPass Offload | Episode 27
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Nathan Hughes – A Fijian Ferrari, Bronco Tests and Playing for England | RugbyPass Offload | Episode 27

“We will miss him, but his return to Bristol will create opportunities for other players to step forward and make an impact on the rest of our season, as we seek to climb the Premiership table and make progress in the European Challenge Cup.”

Hughes’ return to Bristol is a significant shift from where he stood earlier this week, revealing in a RugbyPass Offload appearance that he hadn’t spoken with Bristol boss Pat Lam since before the Bears’ February 25 game versus Wasps. 


Asked on the show if he was on the phone a lot with Lam, Hughes replied: “Not, actually not. I think the last time I spoke to him was before they played Wasps and it was basically ‘if there are any injuries we will call you back’, but nothing has been said or anything like that. All I am doing is basically leaving it and letting the rugby talk and just keep playing as much rugby as I can.


“When they played Leinster they had three head knocks in that game so they needed back rows,” added Hughes when explaining how his January loan switch from Bristol to Bath came about. “That all happened, been there two months and now it’s basically week on week if they need me or not. I’m enjoying it, enjoying the environment. The facilities are quite good there, the chefs are pretty good, it keeps me going there.”

Hughes was a big-money signing from Wasps in 2019 and his initial two seasons at Bristol were busy as the back-rower made 45 appearances – 44 as a starter. However, he has since paid a heavy price for underperformance at Wasps last September in a round two game where the Bears were mauled 8-44, Fitz Harding becoming Lam’s preferred choice at No8. 

With his deal to Bristol set to expire at the end of the current season, Hughes, who will start as the Bath No8 at Exeter in his final loan outing, has been linked with a switch to Clermont in the Top 14 next season.


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