The back-row contest between the Jedi of Wales and England’s trainee stormtroopers will go a long way to deciding the latest instalment of one of rugby’s great rivalries.
For Hughes, this will be his first taste of the fixture’s distinctive flavour. Wales v England means different things to different people – class war, cross-border bragging rights or an excuse to share a beer with old friends – but for the visitors’ No8, growing up in Fiji, the history of the match is a blank page.
"It did not cause many ripples in the sugar-mill town of Lautoka on the west coast of the main island of Viti Levu, even for a boy with a Welsh surname.
Hughes, it turns out, is a Hughes for the oddest of reasons.
“There was a change of name in my family a very long time ago,” he said. “My granddad was working in the US Embassy and the Fijian name he had was quite hard to pronounce, so he changed his name to Hughes instead.
Nathan Hughes will take part in his first England v Wales encounter
England don't have a great record against their rivals in Wales
“My Fijian name is Nasoqiri. I use Hughes but one of my uncles still uses Nasoqiri as his surname.”
His first love was hockey but, with his school short on numbers to play a touring Auckland rugby team, he filled in for them as a second row. Life can change on such moments. He made such an impression he was offered a scholarship straight after the game by Kelston Boys’ High.
He prospered in Auckland and joined the Blues. New Zealand wanted him for their sevens team but he resisted their overtures and switched to Wasps in 2013. Having turned down a place in Fiji’s World Cup squad, Hughes completed his England residency qualification last summer.
Journey’s end in his transition from fun-loving Fijian diesel mechanic’s boy to England rugby player came before his debut against South Africa in November as he lined up to sing God Save The Queen.
“It wasn’t weird, it was just me representing where I live, play my rugby and where my family is at the moment,” he said.
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“I came here, did my time and got the reward for it. I made my choice and my family backed it and we came out the right side of the tunnel.
“Whenever I am given the opportunity by England, I’ll take it with both hands and go out there and perform. I’ll do the jersey and the country proud.
“Everyone in Europe hates to play England because of the way they beat teams physically up front and beat them out wide as well.”
Hughes’s opening in this Six Nations has arisen because of the extended injury absence of Billy Vunipola, who won three man-of-the-match awards in the Six Nations last year.
“I’ve some big boots to fill,” said Hughes. “But I learnt a lot from Billy in the autumn because he’d been involved in the environment for a long time. Working with Billy was good.”
Vunipola-style, Hughes was England’s primary ball carrier against France last week making 46 metres in 15 carries against France’s giant pack. Tom Wood, who played alongside him at Twickenham, thinks there is more to come.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him in an England shirt yet. I’ve played against him for Wasps and he is an unstoppable force at his best. I’d like to see more of that in an England shirt,” said Wood.
At 6ft 5ins and 18st 1lb, Hughes has all the raw material. “I’ve been trying to work on my ball carrying and my defence. I know I have to lead from the front now and not be the one at the back just trucking along. You have to show a good example to the other players,” said Hughes.
Damp behind the ears as he may be at Test level, he is the senior partner in a callow England back row. At 25, he is the eldest of the trio and has started twice as many Tests in the position as Maro Itoje and Jack Clifford. That makes for a grand total of two. Wales are licking their lips.
England are the bigger unit but if the shrewd Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric can outplay them at ground level, Wales will fancy their chances of being the team to end the holders’ 15-match winning run.
The contest starts today when the game stops. If England can cope at the breakdown, they march on; if not Hughes will find out first hand what it means to Wales to take the secateurs to the red rose.