CHRIS KIRWAN: Phil Dollman the perfect example for Adam Hughes after Dragons departure
9:59am Thursday 6th February 2014 in Sport
MOST centres pick Conrad Smith, Brian O'Driscoll, Jonathan Davies or Jean de Villiers as a role model but it's Phil Dollman that should be Adam Hughes' inspiration.
Hughes left Newport Gwent Dragons this week to seek a new challenge at Bristol in the Championship until the end of the season, with Aviva Premiership outfit Exeter also said to be interested in the 23-year-old's services.
Hopefully the wing/centre will be at Rodney Parade for the game against Edinburgh on Sunday so that he can be given the send-off he deserves after making 80 appearances for the region.
It would be a crying shame if Hughes just slips quietly off over the Severn Bridge and I am sure the supporters on the Hazell Terrace would love one last blast of the Dambusters theme tune that they adopted for the qualified pilot.
Sport can be brutal in that one coach can rate a player and another just doesn't but director of rugby Lyn Jones would say that he has to be cruel to be kind.
He clearly preferred the midfield options provided by Jack Dixon, Pat Leach, Ross Wardle, Ashley Smith and hugely promising Wales Under-20s outside centre Tyler Morgan.
Hughes has been a fringe player this season, the last of his nine appearances coming in the LV= Cup defeat to Newcastle last Friday, but with no contract offer on the table has headed for pastures new and a fresh start.
And if he can match the success of Phil Dollman in England then he will have done brilliantly.
The former Bedwas man found chances hard to come by at the Dragons so headed over to Exeter, who were then a Championship side.
Five years on and he is still a favourite at the Chiefs in the Aviva Premiership and last autumn their coaching staff were pushing him for international honours with either England or Wales.
A departure proved to be the making of Dollman and hopefully Hughes can follow in his footsteps.
He is a thoroughly pleasant chap who was a delight to deal with when carrying out his media commitments, a duty that many players bracket with a visit to the dentist or a trip to the in-laws when there is a genuinely Super Sunday on Sky Sports.
He is a classy player and it wasn't just local bias that made me believe I was watching a future Wales international when I saw him featuring in Newport's midfield with Pat Leach.
It didn't take long before he was showing his lines of running and pace on the outside arc at regional level but unfortunately injuries have stunted his progress.
Perhaps Hughes has suffered from being caught between two stools; too small for the brutality of the modern midfield, not quite quick enough to be a genuine pace merchant.
But he is a fine player that will find his way in England – now it's up to him and it would be great if in a few years time we are lamenting one that got away.
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