For several years Baxter has tracked the talented 24-year-old back and now he finally has he man after the Newport-born back put pen to paper on a two-year deal.
Hughes, who has played for both the Newport-Gwent Dragons and Bristol, is the latest new addition to the Chiefs ranks ahead of the 2014/15 season and Baxter is delighted to have the player on board for what promises to be a big campaign for the Devon outfit.
“He’s a bit like a few of the other guys we’ve got at the club," said Baxter. "This isn’t the first time we’ve had a look at him. We had a look at him about three years ago just before he re-signed with the Dragons. He was player-of-the-year that year so we looked to sign him and have kept tabs on him ever since.
“I know he’s had less involvement in the Dragons first team and he’s moved to Bristol for game time, but there are reasons for it – he’s had a couple of injuries and there’s been a change of coaches at Newport.
“When we met him and he did his physical testing, everything showed that he was definitely worth us having another look at.
“We’re really pleased to bring him to the club because I think he’s got a lot of qualities that we can help him show again and develop and he’s one of those guys who has the physical potential to be very good and just needs to get some decent rugby under his belt and kick-start his career.”
Having joined his hometown club as a 16-year-old, Hughes worked his way up through the Dragons Academy before making his first team debut as a 19-year-old. He went on to make over 80 appearances for the Welsh region, before this season switching to Championship side Bristol.
Hughes was involved in helping Bristol finish the regular season on top of the pile in the Championship, but although he scored in their Play-Off final second leg against London Welsh last night, he was unable to help the Westcountry club regain their top flight status.
Appearing off the bench in that game, Chiefs supporters will have been encouraged not only by his finishing prowess, but also his all-round game and rapid speed off the mark.
Baxter says the qualities on show of his new capture are there for all to see and he is confident the player can make his mark within the Aviva Premiership.
“The big thing for us when we tested him was his 10-metre speed,” said Baxter. “He will have one of the best 10-metre speed scores in the squad, which for a Premiership back is very important.
“We still think there’s a fair bit of development in him physically as well. He’s got a natural ability to make outside breaks and beat defenders, he’s also very comfortable in a hard-pressing defence.
“A lot of what we’ve seen of him over the last few years has really suited us, but I think he’s got himself back and ready to give playing rugby a really good go.”
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