Edinburgh are struggling to hold on to the services of Fijian No.8 Viliame Mata, who has attracted the interest of clubs in both England and France.
Mata’s current contract at Edinburgh expires at the end of the 2020/21 season, but France could be the most likely destination for the talented back rower.
The 6ft 5in, 18 stone forward has been a huge find for Cockerill’s side since joining in 2016, with his offloading ability, in particular, being the toast of social media over the years: a breath-taking offload in a famous win over Toulon in the Heineken Champions Cup at the Stade Mayol in 2019 standing out.
OFFLOAD GOALS ?
Big Bill Mata with one of the most ridiculous offloads you'll see all season as Edinburgh score one of the tries of the tournament so far ?
Utterly magical!! pic.twitter.com/vl02mvWECP
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) January 12, 2019
‘Big Bill’ wasn’t selected in Vern Cotter’s Autumn Nations Cup squad due to injury.
It would be a body blow for the side, but Mata’s departure could be the first among many stars to leave SRU contracts with one of Scotland’s two PRO14 clubs. Last week RugbyPass revealed Glasgow’s Adam Hastings had agreed a move to Gloucester, while elsewhere Scotland’s rookie wing monster Duhan van der Merwe has been linked with a big-money move to Worcester Warriors.
The fear for Edinburgh and Glasgow is that more high profile exits could open up the flood gates for further Scottish qualified talent to pursue trophies elsewhere. Scotland internationals Stuart Hogg, Jonny Gray and Finn Russell have all enjoyed fruitful moves abroad with Exeter Chiefs and Racing 92 respectively.
While the Fijian is obviously not qualified for Scotland, Mata’s departure could add to the sense of a sudden, explosive Scottish exodus.
He represented his country at nine events on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens circuit, scoring 11 tries; and won a gold medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, scoring a try in Fiji’s 43-7 victory over Great Britain in the final of the 12-team tournament.
He made a bright start for Edinburgh in 2016, bagging a brace of tries in the 59-17 European Challenge Cup win over Timisoara Saracens.
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