Viliame Mata: Edinburgh to profit from 'quite outstanding' Fijian - Ben Ryan

By Jamie LyallBBC Scotland
Viliame Mata
Viliame "Bill" Mata helped Fiji sevens to Olympics gold in Rio

Edinburgh have acquired a "quite outstanding player" in Fiji sevens forward Viliame Mata, says the man who coached him to Olympics gold in Rio.

Ben Ryan says Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons must involve Mata, 24, who can play second or back-row, as much as possible in open play.

"You don't want a player like that not having an influence and not getting his hands on the ball," Ryan told BBC Scotland.

"For Alan, that'll be a good driver."

Ryan describes 6ft 7in Mata, who signed a two-year deal with Edinburgh this week, as a versatile blend of raw athleticism, and streetwise game-play.

Ben Ryan
Ryan, second left, and the Fiji squad were given a heroes' welcome on their return from Rio

"He doesn't make mistakes; he gets everything right," he said. "His line-break statistics and error rate are probably the best in the squad.

"His hands and his offloading are very, very good. What draws him away from others in the offloading, is that unlike some of our players that might throw offloads that won't always go to hand, Bill's offloads are always very measured.

"He'll always get past the man, always ride the tackle and be able to give an offload very well. I don't think he gave a penalty away in Rio, and I don't think he gave the ball away either."

Edinburgh's Nakarawa?

The Englishman, who stepped down from his post as Fiji's national sevens head coach after the Rio Games, reckons there are "a lot of similarities" between Mata, and another of his gold-winning vintage, ex-Glasgow Warriors phenomenon Leone Nakarawa.

Leone Nakarawa
Fellow Fijian Leone Nakarawa helped Glasgow Warriors to the Pro12 title in 2015

Second-row Nakarawa's astonishing skill-set was pivotal in Glasgow's run to the Pro12 title in 2015, before he departed for the French champions, Racing 92, this summer.

"Bill won't shine as much in that he does a lot of hard work that goes unnoticed," said Ryan. "Not that Leone doesn't, but his bread-and-butter, his tackle, his jackal, for a guy that's so big, he gets to his feet to compete for the ball so well.

"You might not see an amazing step with an offload out the back, but you will see line breaks. Those line breaks don't necessarily have to be full of stardust, they can be created in a number of different ways.

"He's got beautiful hands, he speaks perfect English, and as he gets more confident with the people around him, they could certainly look at him as a number eight as well. He's so flexible."

'Very coachable, and a bright footballer'

Mata's background is chiefly in sevens and rugby league, but Ryan added he had played for Fiji's top province, from whence the likes of former Gloucester favourite Akapusi Qera have emerged.

Viliame Mata
Mata has signed a two-year deal with Edinburgh

The 44-year-old believes Solomons will best exploit his talent by forging a close bond with his newest recruit.

"Bill's very quiet, so you bring the best out of him by having a very good relationship with him, trust him, have a two-way communication with him, like you would with any player," said Ryan.

"There's a lot to come from Bill if you can press the right buttons. He's very coachable, and he's a very bright footballer.

"The key for Bill is, whatever game you play, you just need lots of contact for him - whether that's lots of tackles, lots of passes, lots of carries, lots of interaction in the game.

"He'll understand all their frameworks; it's then about making sure he gets involved as much as possible."

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