Duncan Hodge expects Viliame Mata to spark life into Edinburgh

Duncan Hodge rrports that Viliame Mata has worked hard to get up to speed. Picture: SNS.
Duncan Hodge rrports that Viliame Mata has worked hard to get up to speed. Picture: SNS.
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Edinburgh Rugby’s acting head coach Duncan Hodge is hoping that the “outstanding” Viliame Mata can help the side get their patchy league form back on track tonight in Belfast against Ulster.

Last week’s 10-9 loss to Munster at Myreside left Hodge’s men ninth in the Guinness Pro12 table and it is likely to be a tricky encounter at the 
Kingspan Stadium.

For the clash, Hodge has made just one change to his starting XV.

Fijian Olympic sevens gold medallist Mata comes into the back-row.

With the 25-year-old – who is known as Bill – wearing the No 6 jersey, Magnus 
Bradbury moves to No 8 to accommodate him with Cornell Du Preez not involved.

John Hardie retains the No 7 jersey as he aims to push for a Scotland place against Wales later in the month.

Viliami Fihaki, the Tongan international whose appearances have been few and far between, covers back-row from the bench.

Hodge believes Mata could be the man to spark his charges into life.

He said: “Bill was quietish at the start when he first arrived, but to be fair so are a lot of people when they move to a new club.

“He has been very diligent and worked hard to get up to speed with what we are wanting to do here and there is no doubt that he is very exciting and an outstanding rugby player.

“He knows his role in the team and is solid defensively so it will be good to see him starting.

“He has a great rugby sense about him, he is a brilliant ball player and he just has an ability to run at space and create things for the team-mates around him.”

The capital club may be through to the European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-finals to face La Rochelle at the end of March, but that run has somewhat masked their poor Pro12 campaign.

Since they defeated the Ulstermen at BT Murrayfield back in November, Edinburgh have only won one of their five league matches.

“We know that our league form has not been the best and it is up to myself and the players to go about changing that,” Hodge said. “Last week against Munster we did not do enough in an attacking sense to win the game and we have to be more clinical when we have the 
ball. We have been working on that this week.”