Josh Matavesi has warned his Newcastle Falcons team-mates not to expect an easy night at Rodney Parade on Friday when they visit the Dragons in European Challenge Cup action.
The unbeaten Falcons sit top of Pool One having already defeated Friday’s hosts 32-27 at Kingston Park Stadium in October, but having spent three seasons in Wales with the Ospreys Matavesi knows first hand the level of opposition and atmosphere which will greet the Falcons in Newport.
The Fijian international said: “I’ve experienced Rodney Parade quite a few times with the Ospreys and it’s a tough place to play.
“They really make a big thing of their home games, the crowd are right on top of you and if they’ve been on the beers they’ll let you know what they think of you. It’s not a very nice place to go and play on a Friday night because they’re a good side and their fans really get involved, and we’re absolutely not taking them lightly.
“Their coach Bernard Jackman has made no bones about the fact they will target their home games, we’re expecting a huge test down there but it’s all about staying composed and being ruthless in terms of how we execute our game plan.
“We’ve got the ability to come away with something if we can do that but they’ve got a lot of dangerous players. Sarel Pretorius at scrum-half, Hallam Amos out wide and guys like Ashton Hewitt are electric, but for us it’s about containing them and letting our own guys loose. There’s a really healthy competition within our squad which is pushing the guys on, and whoever comes in we know they will do the job.”
Matavesi has scored in each of his last two games for the Falcons, the centre claiming a try and man-of-the-match honours in the Aviva Premiership win at Northampton before grabbing the last of his side’s eight tries in Saturday’s 52-24 home triumph over Bordeaux-Begles.
“It was really enjoyable getting the five points last weekend, and it all came down to executing the game plan,” said the former Exeter, Worcester and Racing Metro man.
“Our analysts and coaches did a great job during the week, and even though some of the tries might have stemmed from individual line-breaks or pieces of skill what you have to remember is that we’d been working the previous three or four phases to set up that play, to work a defensive mis-match or isolate a weaker defender in a position where we knew we could strike.
“People need to realise that we’re a good team, even when we’re without some of our Premiership regulars. We’ve got a roster in excess of 55 guys, full of good players, and it wasn’t surprising in the least to us that we achieved that result against Bordeaux. It was a good Bordeaux side but I don’t think they respected us enough, and they got what was coming to them.”
Determined that his Falcons side will maintain a level head, Matavesi added: “Sport is largely about the top two inches, even in a physical game like rugby. It’s a game of chess and you’re always thinking two or three moves ahead. We don’t come in Monday to Friday and do nothing, we sit down and work on the fine detail and it’s great when it comes together.
“We spend a lot of time working on our shape, getting our strike runners and best ball-players into the positions where they can do maximum damage. When our moves come together we’ve got our best decision-makers feeding our strongest runners, and that’s our goal on Friday.”