Despite the option to stay in Japan or possibly come back to the Premiership, the former Fiji international has returned home and will be plying his trade in the National Leagues. Photo Credit: (Camborne Rugby Club)
Interview with Talking Rugby Union
When Josh Matavasi represented the Barbarians back in 2018, it wasn’t just the black and white hooped shirts of the famous invitational side that meant a great deal to him.
On that day against England at Twickenham, Matavesi sported red socks to represent Camborne Rugby Club, where it all began for the fly-half/centre.
And after a career which includes stints in the Premiership with Exeter Chiefs, Worcester, Newcastle Falcons and Bath – as well as time spent in France, Wales and most recently Japan – Matavesi has now gone full circle and has returned home to Camborne.
“I feel extremely proud of my journey,” Matavesi says, reflecting on a professional career which has spanned 17 years. “[I was] just a kid from Camborne who really did just believe in himself. A lot of people from the club really helped me with my dream. I didn’t do it alone.
“I have signed for some great clubs in my time, but signing for Camborne has led to this massive excitement factor in my belly. I was more excited to sign for them than I have been for a while so it just shows the club means so much to me.”
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Rarely does an interview with Matavesi pass by without a nod towards his Cornish roots, not least because the man himself is unbelievably proud to come from the area. This season, he will be lining up for Camborne in National Two West after Steve Larkins’ side topped Regional 1 South West last term to earn their first promotion back to the National Leagues for more than 20 years.
Matavesi recognises the club are heading in the right direction and while that certainly came into his thinking when deciding where his next chapter in the game would be following a two-year spell in the Far East with Toyota Shuttles, there were also other factors that took precedence.
None more so than his family.
“I actually had the option of another year in Japan and a couple of offers to go back to the Premiership, but my family really were at the forefront of my thinking,” Matavesi says. “They are the ones that have been sacrificing for me. Moving elsewhere would be another move for the kids, another school for the kids, another friendship group for my wife Anna to make and it is a massive toll.
“My wife has given up her aspirations to make sure the kids are good so wherever I got jetted off to, they were with me so I couldn’t have done it without Anna which makes this the right decision.”
With Sam and Joel both at Northampton Saints, the move back to England means Matavesi is now closer to his brothers as well as his father, Sireli.
“My Dad is still here now,” Matavesi explains as we discuss how his father made Camborne his home. After making such an impression on a Fiji Barbarians tour in 1985, the club wanted him to come back to Cornwall.
“That was a massive pull. When I told him, because obviously I kept it quiet for a bit because I wanted to make sure that all the things were right for me to sign and also for the club to make sure I was the right fit, but when I told him, his face was beaming. That just made my decision even better.”
Matavesi’s four uncles also played for Camborne while his father coached the now 32-year-old as well as brothers Sam and Joel when they were younger.
The affiliation between Camborne and the family is set for its latest instalment with Matavasi combining his playing duties with becoming the club’s Youth Development Officer whilst also taking on the opportunity to commence a career working in Business Development with major sponsor CLX.
“I am really, really passionate about my community,” Matavesi adds. “Being the Youth Development Officer, it allows me to hopefully have a massive impact on young people’s lives here. I just want to be able to impact and influence them in the right direction, perhaps even unlesh the next set of brothers or the next Matavesi’s down in Camborne.
“That is not to say I have been here, done that etc. It is literally just put a ball in their hand and watch them have a smile on their face. I just want them to get the same enjoyment I got from the game. I want to give that back.
“Off the field, I think the club is going places. We have got great investment from CLX and Tony Chapman. To be fair to Tony and CLX, they are huge in the community as well. Tony is from Camborne so for us, and for me, that was another massive factor in coming back here.
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“With what has been going on in the Premiership [with the demise of Worcester, Wasps and London Irish] and coming back home, for me, having the security of this job will be good and it is something I can grow into.
“I have never worked a day in my life so I am really excited to step into that world! I am probably a bit nervous as well! I have got a great team at CLX. They understand I am new to this so they are pretty patient with me. They are going to make sure I can turn a laptop on and write my name!”
So with Matavesi wearing various different hats at Camborne, will the 24-time capped Fijian be able to balance his commitments and travel over to France to watch his nation at the upcoming Rugby World Cup?
“I’ll have to ask the boss for a couple of days off!” laughs Matavesi. “I’m hoping to get some TV work as well [around the tournament] and I want to go over there and experience it as a fan. I have been lucky enough to play in two World Cups [2015 and 2019] so to go and watch my brother Sam, enjoy it, and have a beer, that would be nice.”
Fiji will be aiming to make an impact at the showpiece event which begins in September and Matavesi believes the development of the Fijian Drua Super Rugby Pacific side has helped create “probably one of the best overall squads Fiji have put together.”
Last Saturday, the Flying Fijians began an intriguing Pacific Nations Cup campaign with a 36-20 win over Tonga and will face Samoa and Japan before World Cup warm-up games against France and England.
“In the past, we’ve had the overseas lads and then the lads who play locally in Fiji,” Matavesi says. “The gulf between that and the boys overseas was so huge that the other boys were playing catch-up whereas now, you’ve seen the [Fijian] Drua in Super Rugby, they beat the Crusaders, they beat the Hurricanes so they are a force to be reckoned with.
“Now you have got those players sprinkled in with guys like [Josua] Tuisova, Semi Radradra. That is dangerous.”
On Fiji’s chances of making it out of Pool C which includes Eddie Jones’ Australia, Warren Gatland’s Wales as well as Georgia and Portugal, Matavesi adds: “Going into the World Cup, you have got to have confidence. You go to a World Cup for a reason and that is to go as far as possible. Fiji have to play England at Twickenham and also France in the lead-up to the tournament so they will have had good tests. They are going to be lively going into the World Cup which I am quite excited for!”
Fiji kick off their World Cup campaign against Wales on September 10th, which is shaping up to be a big weekend for Matavesi as just over 24 hours earlier, a fixture which he has circled many times in his calendar is taking place at Camborne’s Crane Park.
“I can’t wait to get stuck into a Dings Crusaders, a Chester, a Clifton but for me, it is Camborne v Redruth. Second game of the season! The amount of build-up and excitement from both parts of town will be huge [the clubs are separated by just a four-mile stretch of the A30].
“I think it is one of the oldest rugby traditions in the world and now to be playing them in the league rather than just on Boxing Day is going to be special.
“For me, the result aside, how good is it for the community game? The town will be buzzing. I can’t imagine how many people will be coming out to watch! Outside the Premiership, I think it will be one of the highest crowds you’re going to see all season. Maybe around 4,500-5,000? Seriously, it is huge!”
The excitement in Matavesi’s voice to get things properly underway is noticeable, with Camborne beginning their campaign against Dings Crusaders on September 2nd.
But this case seems to be a unique one.
Josh Matavesi sold EVERYONE with that dummy ??
Look at the smile on his face during the replay too!
— Rugby on TNT Sports (@rugbyontnt) August 22, 2020
Matavesi is too humble to fully admit Camborne’s “entertaining” brand of rugby might suit his all-court game down to a tee, but the bigger picture for the versatile back is that he is home and he is determined to continue to do his club proud as he has done for the past 17 years.
“When I shook Steve Larkins hand [Camborne’s Director of Rugby], it is a commitment. If I say yes, I am going to do this. I don’t care where the bus is going, I am on it.
“At the end of the day, rugby is rugby and the values still remain the same no matter how high up the game you go so I am going to give it my all to all aspects of the club. The beers do change to protein shakes the higher you go up but I can’t wait to have a beer with an opposition number 10 or 12 and just have that camaraderie because let’s face it, that is what it is all about.”