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Cockerill's Matera verdict nine years after his Leicester stint

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Richard Sellers/Getty Images)

England assistant coach Richard Cockerill has paid tribute to Argentina forward Pablo Matera for developing into a world-class openside nine years after their paths first crossed at Leicester. It was against Wasps in October 2013, just weeks after completing all six matches in his first Rugby Championship, that the then 20-year-old back-rower made his Premiership debut for Cockerill’s Tigers having joined from Alumni, a Buenos Aires grassroots club.

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Matera played just eight matches for Leicester at the time but Cockerill has followed his progress since then, the now 29-year-old making a total of 85 Test appearances for Argentina as well as playing for the Super Rugby Jaguares, Stade Francais in the Top 14, the title-winning New Zealand-based Crusaders and now Honda Heat in Japan after he turned down an approach this summer from Bath.

He was part of the 29-strong squad that Michael Cheika assembled in Manchester at the start of last week for a three-day training camp and he will now be expected to feature against Cockerill’s England when Argentina visit Twickenham this Sunday to open their Autumn Nations Series.

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Matera would have been viewed as the best young forward in the world when he came to Welford Road all those years ago, so what does his former club coach think of the Argentinian’s development since then?

“He has matured immensely obviously with age and the amount of rugby that he has played,” reckoned Cockerill. “Very tough competitor and he has the will to win as you have seen to win in some of the Argentinian games.

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“He is very passionate about playing for his country and he is very motivated. He has turned into a world-class openside. He played at eight for Argentina recently but his best position is probably seven and is great over the ball, he is a very good ball carrier and he is a tough man who plays tough. To do what he has done in New Zealand, to go and play and show himself in that environment and rate him so highly just probably shows how good he is.”

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