EDINBURGH head coach Richard Cockerill has underlined his determination to keep together the core of his squad going into next season by re-signing Fijian No8 Viliame ‘Bill’ Mata – one of the highest rated and paid players at the club – for an unspecified period of time.
The 29-year-old, who was nominated for EPCR Player of the Year and named Guinness PRO14 Players’ Player of the Year after the 2019-19 season, was an Olympic Gold Medal winner with the Fiji 7s team in 2016.
Since arriving in Edinburgh four and a half years ago, he has made 81 appearances for the club.
“I feel truly blessed and I thank God for another opportunity to extend our stay here in Edinburgh,” said Mata – who lives in the city with his wife, Wati, and two children, Vinny (6) and Bill Junior (2). “Edinburgh Rugby is heading to a good stage right now and think we’re building together well as a team.
“Since I started with Edinburgh Rugby, I’ve felt my rugby has progressed season after season, so staying with the club means I can hopefully progress even more and aim higher than where I am now.
“All the staff have been really helpful, especially the S&C who have created a personal programme for me to suit my recovery and physical needs.
“To be honest, in my second season, I wasn’t sure I’d last long in Edinburgh, maybe because of the difference in weather and being so far from home, but we feel truly blessed that we are still here and that my family now call Edinburgh ‘home’ as well.
“After the second year, Cockers came in and the S&C programme started to change. I felt like I had a bit more in me that I could show. Since then, I’ve been grabbing every opportunity. That’s why I’m still here now and staying for more.
“My daughter knows only two places, Fiji and Edinburgh, and it’s home for our son because he was born here. My wife feels that way too and we are very happy.
“The fans play a big part in that too. I’m grateful to them for sticking with the team now and, with me extending my contract, hopefully I can produce more for the team and make them even happier in the seasons to come.”
Mata joins fellow back-row internationalists Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie, plus Scotland fellow star Blair Kinghorn and Jaco van der Walt, in re-committing to the club in recent weeks.
“We’re delighted to be able to extend Bill’s contract,” he said. “He’s a player of undeniable talent and brings a real x-factor to the side.
“He’s a devastating, powerful runner in broken field and from the back of the scrum and has the passing and offloading skills in and before the tackle to bring players around him into the game from nowhere.
“He has worked exceptionally hard over his career to develop those soft skills which complement a lot of the excellent and more understated work he gets through in a game.
“The physical side of his game has come on a great deal in his time here thanks to near personal care from our S&C team. He’s had a huge amount of support in that area and we’ve reaped the benefits of his commitment to new training and nutrition regimes through his performances on the park.
“We take in pride in our care for players and I think that has played a big part in keeping him here.”