INTERVIEW | What's the Mata?

It was perhaps fitting that when Blair Kinghorn – an unquestionable nominee for Edinburgh’s player of the season – was recently asked who he thought the club’s best player had been, he simply replied with one name: Bill Mata.

Since returning to first team action at the turn of the year, the burly Fijian - whose full name reads Viliame Sevaka Mata - has been in sparkling form and the sight of the number eight galloping full-speed into contact has become a common sight for Edinburgh’s supporters.

‘Big Bill’s ascendance has transformed Edinburgh’s attack and it’s no coincidence that his fine form coincided with the club’s Guinness PRO14 winning streak.

Now a regular feature in Edinburgh’s pack, Mata feels he has now settled in the nation’s capital and believes he is playing some of his best rugby.

“I’ve finally got used to the weather, but still too cold for me!” joked Mata. “It’s my second season here but still the weather seems to be getting colder each day.

There are a few Fijian families here who are close to me, so I look at Edinburgh as a home away from home.

“I love to eat out with my family. There’s so many great places to visit throughout the city.”

Although the Fijian has a penchant for some of Edinburgh’s finer eateries, Mata often visits the local Dreghorn army barracks, where he’ll cook with other Islanders and their families.

It was an initiative started by former Edinburgh player Ben Atiga and it now sees Glasgow Warrior’s players partake in the culinary get together.

“It started last season when we had a few island boys in the team like Nasi Manu, Viliami Fihaki, Sasa Tofilau and Will Helu.

“That’s when we decided to bring our families together to meet up, but it grew even bigger when we invited the Glasgow island boys as well. It was a really good get together for us and it almost felt like we were back at home.”

Despite his skills in the kitchen, Mata’s true talents lie on the rugby field, and they were perhaps at their brightest during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

It was in Brazil where the Fijian, and his teammates, won gold - pipping Mark Bennett's UK outfit in a hotly contested final - and Mata believes that his South American success has, so far, been the highlight of his burgeoning career.

“Rio was almost two years ago now, but the experience I got from it was the best I’ve experienced in my rugby career to date.  Playing for Fiji is something every guy from our country dreams of. The preparations for the games were so tough, but we won gold and it was an amazing experience. It’s the proudest moment in my career, 100%

With Edinburgh on the brink of Final Series qualification, Mata’s contributions have been pivotal to the club’s current league position, but the Fijian believes that there is more yet to come from he and his teammates.

To be honest, I’m playing much better this year than last season. I was a little too heavy, but getting more game time this season has helped and I’m really enjoying it.

“For me, my strengths are attacking. I don’t call the lineouts. I would if I could, but the other boys are good at that.

“My goal is to simply be the best for the team. I put in everything that I can on the field and If we qualify for the Final Series, then we can go from there.”