2012 was a very solid year of improvements all around for USA rugby, notably the national XV team improved markedly and look a much more rounded outfit than in 2011 but another US team who had a big year in 2012 was the U20 team who won the Junior Rugby World Trophy and promotion to the Junior Rugby World Cup for 2013 in place of the relegated Italy.
The undoubted star of that campaign for the USA was full back Madison Hughes. The 20 year old full back equalled the tournament record with 82 points, including 4 tries, he showed good pace, but stood out more for his rugby brain and handling skills, and isn't at all the all power or all pace player lacking in rugby brains like some other backs the US have found and thrown into the side.
Such was Hughes' form that he was mentioned by US rugby site This Is American Rugby mentioned him as a contender for the wing position for the November tour. Hughes was described as "THE youth player in the US system right now" and was named by the same site as US Young Player of the Year.
Whilst Hughes wasn't selected for the November tour, barring injuries, in 2013 it will be when not if he will make his debut in the USA national team set up, he will surely make his debut at least in time for Rugby World Cup 2015.
Part of the reason he is so likely to make his debut are the gaps he could fill in the USA side. For starters, right now Chris Wyles simply is nowhere near good enough as an international goal kicker. You cannot have a goal kicker in your side who has missed from in front of the posts in multiple occasions this year.
Hughes was the goal kicker the USA U20's and was described as "absolutely deadly with the boot" by This Is American Rugby. He could also give Mike Tolkin the option of moving their star back Chris Wyles into the centres where he would receive more ball, and bring some different to a USA midfield which has often been criticised as too one dimensional and lacking creativity.
Add into the fact, you will get more rugby brains into the US backs, another thing that the US have been criticised in the past for lacking, and the likelihood of Hughes breaking into the USA team just looks more and more likely, especially with James Paterson now having decided to quit professional rugby and focus on other work. Hughes could be a player able to create opportunities for the likes of star finisher Ngwenya, who has looked frustrated playing for the USA at times in the past.
Hughes is the young American rugby player who people should be keeping a keen eye on in 2013 and beyond into the future.