NEWS | Mata: "The 1872 Cup is huge for us."

The sight of Fijian number eight Viliame ‘Bill’ Mata holding aloft his man of the match medal following yet another inspiring performance has become a familiar spectacle for capital supporters this season.

In fact, in two back-to-back man of the match winning performances against Benetton and Cheetahs, you’d be willing to bet your mortgage that “Big Bill Mata” would be screamed over the tannoy by the end of the 80 minutes – that’s how good the 6ft 5in back-row has been.

Yet, despite his enormous stature and talent, the Olympic gold medallist is incredibly humble in his approach to both rugby and life. And it shows in his teammates reactions to his breath-taking skills.

“That’s just Bill being Bill,” said one Edinburgh player. “He’s a chill guy,” said another.

Big Bill is anything but a ‘chill guy’ on the pitch, however. With a thunderous turn-of-pace and keen eye for a gap, the No. 8 leads both the Guinness PRO14 and Heineken Champions Cup in number of carries – stats that have not gone unnoticed by supporters and pundits alike.

But how does Bill feel about his stunning 2018/19 campaign?

“I feel really good playing rugby this season,” said Mata. “I’ve definitely been getting better than last season. I’m feeling really confident and I think it’s hopefully showing out on the pitch.

“It’s always great to play at BT Murrayfield and the home crowd always gets behind me and the team. When I do something cool like offload the ball or put in a big tackle, I always the hear the crowd shouting my name.

“When I win man of the match too – it’s awesome to hear the whole stadium cheer! Hopefully I can continue to keep them happy.”

There’s no doubt that Mata has kept a smile on the faces of the BT Murrayfield this season with his 7’s style of play that almost seems unnatural for a man of his size.

A silky-smooth offload against Newcastle Falcons in the Heineken Champions Cup was enough to free Jaco van der Walt, who eventually set-up Blair Kinghorn for a bonus-point clinching try.

It was a moment of magic hidden in a haystack of slips and spills, but as per, Mata was quick to pay tribute to his teammates as he made his debut in European rugby’s premier competition.

“I think everybody plays a big role in the team so every individual makes a big contribution to the game. I obviously love to play rugby a certain way and whether that’s by putting in a nice pass or making a break, it puts guys in a position to succeed.

“Playing in the Heineken Champions Cup for the first time has been absolutely amazing. We were lucky enough to be in a brilliant group with huge names like Toulon and Montpellier.

“It’s been great to test myself against the Top 14 giants and the big-name players that turn out for those clubs. Playing back-to-back games against Newcastle has been really tough too, but it’s a great challenge and one that we’ve really enjoyed as a squad.”

You wouldn’t expect a Fijian born 9,788 miles away from his adopted city to know too much about the rivalry between Edinburgh and Glasgow, but in Warriors’ Niko Matawalu, Mata has a compatriot with a long-standing history in the age-old fixture.

“It’s pretty cool to play against Niko Matawalu. I mean, playing against a Fijian is always pretty difficult! For every team we face, I always know the Fijian players really well and they are always incredibly talented guys and they’ve got brilliant skills.

“Niko is Niko, I guess – we’re on opposite sides but I always look forward to facing him.

“I’ve heard big things about the rivalry between Edinburgh and Glasgow. The 1872 Cup almost feels like a final for us sometimes.

“You can feel the whole intensity of the squad when it comes around to playing Glasgow Warriors and the Scottish boys. They’re definitely up for the match – that’s for sure!”

Mata found himself turning from hero to villain in November has he scored against his Scottish teammates during Fiji’s 54-17 defeat at BT Murrayfield.

It was an almighty test for the South Sea islanders, but an experience that will live long in the memory of Big Bill.

“It’s always good to represent my home team on the international stage, but playing at a full BT Murrayfield in front of all the Scottish supporters was an incredible experience.

“I obviously play most of my rugby right here in Scotland so to score against some of my teammates was pretty cool. It was definitely a proud moment in my career.”