A cult hero at Scotstoun, the versatile Fijian has scored 28 tries in 84 appearances during two spells at the club and, after discovering that the grass is not always greener in the Aviva Premiership – with a rather disappointing sojourn in England between the summers of 2015 and 2017– the 28-year-old did not take much persuading before agreeing to extend his stay.
“I’m really honoured to sign for Glasgow again. When I re-signed [earlier this season] it was optional that I might go somewhere else at the end of the year, but I really enjoy being here and the kind of game the coach likes to play,” he said.
“This club is like my family. It was my first professional club when I came from Fiji. It was the first country I knew in the UK.
“It [Glasgow] is a lovely town, a beautiful town. I think it’s a more beautiful town than Edinburgh,” he added, in a mischievous nod towards Saturday’s match.
While his time south of the border – first with Bath and then with Exeter Chiefs – did not work out as he hoped it would, Matawalu is not the type of character to dwell on past disappointments. The reason he is so highly regarded by team-mates and fans alike is his irrepressible enthusiasm, manifested in his determination to turn every experience into something positive.
“I don’t regret it. I never regret,” he responded, when asked to reflect on his time in England. “Sometimes you have to try something different. I wanted to try the Premiership. I really liked it, but it is a different kind of league and has a more physical style,” he explained.
“I have more freedom to play here. It’s a big difference. The coach knows my abilities to play what’s in front of me, but I have to stay disciplined.”
It helps, also, that Matawalu can see the progress the Warriors have made as a club in the five-and-a-half years since he first landed on these shores.
“Lots of things are different. The club is a bit more professional. The support is getting bigger and there are a lot of sponsors, too. Before, it was more like 1,000 people at a game, but now it is really good to see the full houses at Scotstoun,” he said.
“It’s a big boost to the boys, especially at a home game. It helps them to play well.”
“When you score a try you can really hear the crowd. It’s something special to have someone shouting your name, so you’re going to want to deliver. And the boys will deliver.”
Matawula has been deployed primarily on the wing since his return at the start of the season, but he first came to prominence as a scrum-half and still considers that to be his primary position – not that he is minded to bend head coach Dave Rennie’s ear on that issue.
“That was the first thing I talked about with Dave. He said he was signing me as a scrum-half, but I needed to get my fitness back. I have that now and he has said that he wants to play me on the wing. I don’t mind. Give me 13, 15 or even hooker, I’ll play,” he said.
“We will wait for the right time [to play scrum-half]. If you are given any opportunity you shouldn’t waste it.”
With Ali Price in excellent form at scrum-half at the moment, and George Horne biting at his heals, plus Henry Pyrgos providing experience and a steady hand if required, Matawalu is likely to carry on getting most of his game time on the wing for the foreseeable future. He will certainly be in the mix for selection in that position this weekend, when his ability to create something out of nothing could be crucial to separating the two sides in an historically tight contest.
Elsewhere, the Warriors are expecting to have back-rows Callum Gibbins [hamstring] and Rob Harley [knee] back in the selection mix, and are also hopeful that captain Ryan Wilson will have recovered from the ankle injury he picked up during Saturday’s defeat in Montpellier.
“He [Wilson] didn’t train today, he’s under medical supervision so we’ll see how he gets on and if he can train tomorrow. He’s definitely still in contention for Saturday, but we’ll find out more tomorrow,” said assistant coach Kenny Murray.
Prop Oli Kebble, a summer recruit from the Stormers in South Africa, who only managed two appearances before hurting his foot in early September, is also in with a shout. He was supposed to play for Marr against Watsonians in the BT Premiership last weekend before that game was postponed due to a frozen pitch.
Huw Jones was given last weekend off to rest a persistent wrist problem but is expected to return to the centre this week.