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Nathan Hughes impresses on full England debut against Australia

Full debutant Nathan Hughes had the biggest of boots to fill in replacing talismanic number eight Billy Vunipola as England hosted Australia at Twickenham.

Here, Press Association Sport examines the Wasps back-rower's contribution to England's 37-21 victory.


Australia targeted Hughes right from the off, blasting the kick-off and every subsequent restart deep and straight down the number eight's throat. The visitors even sent powerful centre Tevita Kuridrani racing through his channel in a bid to force an immediate error. Wasps back-rower Hughes remained unflinching in the sight of the onrushing Wallabies horde however. And his calmness set the tone as England managed to fend off 20 minutes of pure Wallabies pressure, before setting about overturning the visitors' early advantage.


Hughes grew in confidence and impact as the tie wore on. Once he hit his stride Australia struggled to contain him too. Hughes' number eight pick-up that had Michael Hooper back-pedalling even teed up Ben Youngs' try. While Australia were finding their bearings after conceding a penalty following Hughes' barnstorming run, Youngs tapped quickly and caught the Wallabies napping for a crucial score.


Knee injury victim Vunipola is among the world's very best when it comes to disguising his pass out to the backline. As defences bunch up for yet another bullish run from the big Saracen, sometimes he offloads out of the back door, thereby creating an immediate overlap out wide. Hughes is not yet in Vunipola's class, but perhaps that will come in time. For now, he at least made sure he minimised any chances for errors, by refusing to attempt any risky passes with ball in hand.


A fine full debut showing great promise for the future. There can be few doubts that Vunipola will return to the starting line-up once he regains form and fitness. But England now have even greater options in their back-row thanks to Hughes rubber-stamping his Test-match prowess here.


From Belfast Telegraph