Matavesi ready to make his mark at Saints after 'surreal' year

"I don't know about that," says a smiling Sam Matavesi when it is put to him that he is labelled 'the most interesting man in rugby' in a World Rugby video on YouTube.

Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 7:00 am
Sam Matavesi is ready to make his mark at Saints

It has amassed more than 33,000 views and gives a glimpse into Matavesi's work as an Able Rate in the Royal Navy, which he has been balancing with club rugby at Cornish Pirates and international action with Fiji.

"My wife fell pregnant and I needed a job to help me support the family," Matavesi explains in the video.

"Even though rugby is good it wasn't going to help me pay the bills so I joined the Navy and I haven't looked back."

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But Matavesi, whose father, Sireli, represented the Fiji Barbarians and whose brother, Josh, plays for Newcastle Falcons, might just be able to make rugby pay now.

He agreed a switch to Saints last week, with the move coming about thanks to Chris Boyd's friendship with Cornish Pirates boss Chris Stirling and Fiji forwards coach Alan Muir.

And Matavesi, who predominantly plays at hooker but can also be called on at No.8, is now in line to make his debut in the massive Champions Cup clash with Leinster at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening.

"It's all a bit surreal at the minute," said Matavesi, who has replaced wing Ryan Olowofela in Saints' Champions Cup squad.

Matavesi enjoys a tussle with Harry Mallinder in training

"But when you get to a new club, you want to play.

"You can earn the boys' respect a lot more when you're doing what you get paid for.

"I'm hoping I get a chance this weekend and what a test it will be.

"I need to get used to my role, what I need to do and I'll worry about what they (Leinster) bring on Saturday.

Matavesi is settling in at Saints

"I watched the game last Saturday and there's a reason why they're one of the best teams in Europe, but I don't think the scoreline reflected the play.

"Hopefully we can make it closer this week."

Matavesi, whose rugby journey started at Plymouth, still has 'one foot in the door' with the Navy, but he has been allowed the chance to pursue a career at Saints.

"The Navy has given me stability but also the chance to chase a dream," he said.

"Massive shout-out to everyone in the Navy who has helped me and is still backing me.

"You meet people every day and you get to see the world.

"I've got a sports draft and I don't technically get paid by the Navy now but I've still got one foot in the door.

"I will still play against the RAF and the Army."

The switch to Saints has capped a hugely eventful year for Camborne-born Matavesi, who has gone from the Pirates to Toulouse to the World Cup to Northampton.

And the stint at Toulouse certainly stands out, especially because the club claimed the Top 14 title while Matavesi was there as a medical joker.

"I played for Toulouse in the last five months of last season and it came around quite quickly," he explained.

"We (Fiji) played France and beat them in the November internationals and I had an alright game so it stuck in their mind.

"Toulouse had a few injuries and needed some cover, I had five months in France and they ended up winning the Top 14 while I was there.

"It's an incredible team and very much like this (Saints) in terms of how important the team is and how big a part it plays in what goes on.

"It's a very similar stadium, you can tell it's the hub of the place.

"It was an unbelievable experience.

"You walk into a team full of stars and it's pretty similar here.

"My first game was against Clermont in front of 35,000 people in the Toulouse football stadium.

"I played at Castres in a derby and it was awesome to be involved in.

"It was the first time they'd beaten them in a few years and everyone was pretty happy.

"It's pretty much like Northampton against Leicester, a niggly game.

"I also played against Pau and Perpignan and it was awesome."

Matavesi eventually left Toulouse and headed home for a week before flying out to Fiji for World Cup preparations.

He played against Wales, Australia, Georgia and Uruguay in the pool stages as his side bowed out.

But Matavesi was then hit by a deflating blow upon his return to England.

He explains: "I met my wife at Heathrow, we stayed in Shoreditch, quite a nice hotel, but we realised they had no hotel parking.

"They recommended we park at this car park and it was £60 to park a day but by then we were tired and we did it.

"We got up the next day, met my wife's little sister in London and then went back to the car in the afternoon and it had been burgled.

"I had two massive Fiji suitcases with shirts, cap, medals, boots, clothes.

"It put a massive bad feeling on what was a great experience.

"I got a cap and medal from World Rugby, I got a shirt from Fiji but they're not the shirts I wore against Wales, Australia, Georgia and Uruguay.

"There's not a lot I can do about it."

Matavesi, who this week won the sportsman of the year award at the Naval Service Sports Awards, will now hope to make many more memories at Saints.

And he can't wait to be part of a team that plays rugby the way he is used to.

"One massive thing is what sort of style a team plays and Saints probably play the best style of rugby in the Premiership," he said.

"It's an awesome club to join and it's even better they're playing that style of rugby."