Fiji No.8 Viliame “Bill” Mata has enjoyed welcoming countrymen to his adopted home city but admits the BT Murrayfield he is so familiar with will be a different experience during Saturday’s Test match.
“Murrayfield is a home ground to me, I’ve played a lot of my rugby there,” said the explosive back-rower, who has been one of Edinburgh’s top performers this season and become a firm fans’ favourite.
“I’ve told the boys here that it’s a great place to play rugby, a great stadium and a great pitch. It’s not that full when we play – but I was there to watch Scotland play England and it was fully packed, obviously.
“It will be an amazing experience to play in that kind of atmosphere, to play Scotland at home.”
Mata has been giving as much inside information as he can to the Fijian coaching team and is looking forward to winning what would be the 27-year-old’s eighth cap, with a game against Uruguay in Gloucester and a Test against France in Lille following later in the month.
“At the moment, we’re just reviewing our game because we haven’t played together since last June,” said Mata.
“Because of that, we’re keeping everything short and simple and looking to make a good start of our November tests. It will be a little strange for me, because there are a lot of Edinburgh boys – and plenty of Glasgow players – in the Scotland team. But I’m looking forward to the challenge. And I know it is a big challenge, especially playing against the Edinburgh boys.”
Friendships will be put aside for 80 minutes, with Mata identifying hooker Stuart McInally and Hamish Watson as the toughest clubmates he could be facing up against.
“But I won’t be avoiding them. You have to play against them if they’re there,” he said.
“We’ve got a good squad together for this series. We need to make a good start.”
Mata said he is loving life at Edinburgh, with a two-try man-of-the-match performance against Scarlets the latest addition to his highlights reel.
“I came in late last year because my Visa application was held up,” he explained. “This year, the strength and conditioning programme put together by Edinburgh has been perfect for me – and that’s why I’m playing better.
“It was important for Fiji to beat Scotland back home. But to come here and win would be different.”
Meanwhile, Tommy Seymour has backed under-fire centre Huw Jones to bounce back from his Cardiff disappointment and make amends if given the opportunity against Fiji.
Jones has been a revelation for Scotland and has scored ten tries in 17 caps, including a memorable double in February’s Calcutta Cup triumph, but had an afternoon to forget in the 21-10 defeat by Wales which kicked off the autumn Test series.
He was singled out by Gregor Townsend for two bad missed tackles, which were described as “big mistakes”.
Wing Seymour, who was vice-captain at the weekend, stuck up for his Glasgow Warriors team-mate at Scotland’s Oriam training base yesterday, where the squad are preparing for the home Tests against the Fijians, South Africa and Argentina.
“The squad are going to rally round him,” said Seymour. “We’re maybe isolating Huw more than we should, to be honest. We look back at things as a squad and it’s so easy for everyone else to look at it and go with that [the missed tackles] because that’s the easy part of it, people say we’ll just go with that.
“But there were failings in and around what happened on the weekend that had nothing to do with him and weren’t his fault, that we need to correct, to put him in less problematic positions.
“Huw’s played unbelievably well for Scotland as we all know in the caps he’s got and he’s had phenomenal moments to help us win games. Huw will bounce back, I have no doubt about it, he’s a talented footballer and any votes of confidence or help he needs, he gets, because we’re all aware of what he brings to the party. Shug will be absolutely fine.”
The 30-year-old said he enjoyed being given more of a leadership role at the Principality Stadium in a backline which was shorn of Greig Laidlaw, Finn Russell, Sean Maitland and Stuart Hogg, all of whom could return this week.
“I had not been in that role before. I suppose as my seniority has increased within the squad I like to think i can bring a level of experIence and knowledge to the squad and impart that to some of the younger guys,” said Seymour, who toured with the British and Irish Lions last summer.I wouldn’t say i am the guy that will stand up and roar in front of everybody naturally but if I can fit into a role to help the younger squad members, the guys with less experience than I am happy to do that.
“I love being in the squad and in the team and anything I can do to help is great and having this accolade is a huge privilege and something I will never forget.”