OSAKA, 6 Oct – In the three years since making the transition from the World Rugby Sevens circuit to the 15-man format, Fiji’s Viliame Mata has become a powerhouse in European rugby. 

Since playing his part in Fiji’s gold medal-winning squad at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the 29-year-old Edinburgh loose-forward has made rapid progress and claimed the Pro14 player of the year in May.

Just as he has blossomed under director of rugby Richard Cockerill at Edinburgh, Mata believes many of the Flying Fijians will take the benefits of European rugby into their final Pool D clash against Wales on Wednesday.   

"We are training as if it is a final for us," said Mata, pictured playing for the Barbarians against England this year.

"The boys are going to give it their all knowing that it’s going to be a big game. They (Wales) are going to be trying to top the pool, they have some world-class players, and some I have seen playing in the Pro14, so I know they will bring a big game on Wednesday.

"Pro14 (the league in which Welsh regional sides play) is growing pretty fast and there are some world-class players in the league. It makes everyone a better player.

“I would say that Edinburgh created a personal programme that suited me very well as a Fijian in the northern hemisphere. I have to give credit to them.

"A lot of Fijians are making the move over to Europe and that is very good for Fijian rugby.” 

John McKee echoed Mata’s sentiments following the Fijians' first training session at the Red Hurricanes Training Ground in Osaka on Saturday.

"That is one of the benefits of having so many of our players playing in Europe," McKee said.

"They are used to playing these guys either in domestic competition across Europe or the European competitions. Our players are familiar with all the players in the Welsh line-up. 

"It’s great for us to see our players go to Europe and to play so well. Particularly players like Viliame Mata – predominantly a sevens player – and in a relatively short time has made quite a mark at club level. We will be looking for him to do the same against Wales."

RNS si/mj/bo/sw