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Joel Matavesi: Great environment at Saints has made it easy to settle

We sat down with new Saints centre Joel Matavesi ahead of this evening’s Premiership Rugby Cup clash against Newcastle Falcons…

Q: How are you settling into life at Northampton Saints?
JM: It’s been good. It was a pretty turbulent start to the season for me. I was just working and then got in contact with my old agent, who reached out to me and told me about this opportunity. It was a chance to come in over the Six Nations for a bit of a trial, provide a bit of cover and see how things go. It’s been mad and everyone has been class; the boys, the coaches, the S&C guys – it’s a great environment and I feel like I’ve settled in pretty fast.

Q: Has your previous experience of full-time rugby at Newcastle Falcons helped you get used to things here?
JM: A little bit. You are a bit more aware of things as a result, but I’ve been at a couple of clubs now and everywhere does run things a bit differently, so it does still take a few weeks to get to know things.

Q: Just looking over your season, it has been a bit varied, all starting back at Redruth in National Two South…
JM: Rugby is massive in Cornwall – we’d go to some places and they’d not have anyone there, and then you’d go back to Redruth and you’d have a thousand people there. It shows how the locals support the clubs there. Sometimes they get similar crowds to the Cornish Pirates. It’s mad, really.

Q: After you started your trial at Saints, you played a bit for Bedford Blues in the Championship. How did you find that experience?
JM: I got a lot out of going there, in terms of showing what I can do. Mikey Rayer and the boys there were awesome as well. It was fantastic to get some minutes under my belt and I feel that really helped. I had never played on the slope at Goldington Road before – it’s alright when you’re running down it, but pretty difficult going the other way! The crowds there are awesome again.

Q: You’ve obviously joined your brother Sam at the Club, had you two previously spoken much about how he was doing here?
JM: We spoke about it a little bit and towards the end of Covid, I came down for a few days here. I knew some of the boys anyway through that and we sort of had our passing chats, but most of the time we weren’t really talking about rugby! Last season, I was up in Newcastle while Sam was here and Josh was at Bath, so it’s easier for my dad now to watch us play. Sam has been really good since I’ve been here – he’s helped me out loads, not just in the environment, but outside as well.

Q: Let’s look back at your Saints debut at Saracens, a nice quiet game to start with…
JM: We spoke about it after and Piers Francis was saying not many teams go to Saracens and win, no matter what the competition is, so it was a pretty big thing going there and put a good score on them. It was a case of ‘they score, we score’ and by the time our bench came on, we scored a couple of tries to steady it a bit, but throughout the game it was pretty mad out there.

Q: You’ve now got your home debut to look forward to, and it’s against your old club, Newcastle. How much are you looking forward to a bit of midweek rugby?
JM: I’m looking forward to it a lot – I’ve got a lot of good friends there and a lot of people I played with for a few years, so I can’t wait to get stuck in. I’ve got a good group of friends that I still speak to weekly, but the ones I speak to I don’t think will be playing. It’s a bit like the ‘A’ League being back; Wednesday night footy, you can’t beat it! It will be good as it breaks our week up a bit, rather than going from weekend to weekend. It will be a bit different. We’ve not had the greatest of build-ups to it, as in we’ve only had one-and-a-half days’ training, but it is one of those things where once you get out there, it all takes over.

Q: Looking ahead, will we be seeing you in Gallagher Premiership action at some point?
JM: I’ve had constant feedback – even after the Bedford games, I’ve sat down with the coaches and gone over what I need to work on. I’ve had some pretty clear feedback on what I need to do, going forward, so that’s really helpful. I think Saints and Bedford have a really good relationship, so as their Championship Cup campaign goes on, I think I might be playing in that as well.

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Northampton Saints
Newcastle Falcons
Saturday 4 June - 3:00pm
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