Sam Matavesi believes the ambition of Cornish Pirates will blow the Premiership’s ringfencing brigade clean out of the water as their bid to challenge Exeter’s West Country dominance gathers pace.
With the transfer of land to Pirates’ control removing the final hurdle to building a new ‘Stadium for Cornwall’ in Truro by 2022, planning for a Premiership future has begun in earnest – a shot in the arm for those in favour of retaining promotion and relegation.
Proud Cornishman Matavesi, who joined Northampton from Pirates last week, told The Rugby Paper: “Once everything happens, the Pirates can make a real push for the Premiership. The stadium will transform lives and the potential there is massive.
“It’s a bit like Northampton where rugby seems to be the biggest sport and once that stadium is built, you can get the academy infrastructure sorted out and, nothing against Exeter, we can stop all those promising players from heading out of Cornwall.
“The plan is to challenge Exeter and if you want to be in the Premiership, you should aspire to be the best, just like Exeter have. It’s going to take a few years but once people start supporting Pirates in bigger numbers, players will want to play there.”
Asked if the ambition of sides like Pirates, Coventry and Ealing to join the elite should end the debate over ringfencing, Matavesi added: “One hundred per cent. If you scrap promotion and relegation a big attraction of the Premiership will just disappear. It makes every game in the Premiership mean something – that’s what you need.
“Bristol had a fair few years in the Championship and struggling at times, but they are flying in the Premiership now. Imagine if that chance of coming back wasn’t there, they probably wouldn’t exist now.
“So many teams have gone down, including Saints and Harlequins, and come back better for it, so no way should the Premiership be ringfenced.”
Matavesi, meanwhile, is reflecting on his good fortune after a stint on loan at Top 14 champions Toulouse last season preceded a fine showing for Fiji at the World Cup, culminating in a move to Northampton after Dylan Hartley’s retirement.
Matavesi, 27, explained: “It happened pretty quickly but what helped was that (Saints rugby director) Chris Boyd knows (Pirates boss) Chris Stirling so there was no messing about.
“It’s tough because Pirates is my home club and they’ve been amazing for me, but after the World Cup I’m at the stage where joining Northampton is a massive chance.
“Having had a taste at Toulouse last season where you’re walking into a dressing room with eight or nine French internationals, Kiwi World Cup winners and a guy like Cheslin Kolbe there as well, it makes you hungry for what you could have.
“And coming to a side like Northampton now, who are top of the Premiership and playing some unbelievable rugby, I need to work hard and make the most of this chance.”
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