Planet Rugby

Matera signing a coup for Leicester

09th October 2013 12:34

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Huge talent: Pablo Matera

Tuesday's news that Leicester Tigers had signed one of the game's brightest talents in Pablo Matera resonated everywhere.

Rarely are Mourad Boudjellal and Toulon beaten to a signature, making Matera's move to Leicester all the more attention-grabbing.

The openside flanker arrives at Welford Road on the back of an excellent first tournament in The Rugby Championship.

Make no mistake - Matera is a golden player who one day will be regarded as the best in the world in his position.

Still only 20, Matera packed down for the majority of the tournament in a back-row alongside Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe and Juan Manuel Leguizamón.

Both of those players have spent time in England with Sale and London Irish respectively, impressing during their brief stints to the point where Lobbe became a integral part of Sale's success when they lifted the Premiership title in 2005.

The duo have both gone on to successful stints in France, which if Richard Cockerill has his way is a path Matera will not follow.

Despite originally being signed on a one-year deal as an injury replacement for England flanker Tom Croft, the ambitions for the Puma are very much long-term.

"He's one of the best young players in the world. He's got all the raw ability and if you don't get him now and he goes to France first you'll never see him again.

"You have to take the punt on the guy that might be with you for the next 10 years," Cockerill told the Guardian after the news broke.

Some fine words from his countrymen Gonzalo Camacho and Marcos Ayerza, both current Tigers, about the club will have helped Leicester's cause in their recruitment of Matera, but he will already have been more than aware of Leicester's reputation.

The Tigers have a pedigree of success - eight successive Premiership Finals, three titles - that other clubs are desperate to emulate.

Toulon may have bought their way to Heineken Cup success last season, but it will take them years to match what Leicester have achieved domestically. There is arguably no better environment for Matera to develop in.

What makes Matera such a hot property can be found both in statistics and when examined more closely.

Matera made the most offloads in The Rugby Championship, tied on nine with Israel Folau and Quade Cooper. He also finished in the top ten for carries (4th) and tackles (8th) with 50 in each category. Not bad for a player participating in his first senior tournament.

Planet Rugby's own Ross Hastie watched Matera in action in June last year, when still playing for the Argentina U20 side aged 18.

Highlighting his physicality and skills on both sides of the ball, Matera has now heavily improved his work-rate as the statistics illustrate.

By taking a developing player with his talent and rearing him at Welford Road, both the player and Leicester will benefit considerably.

Just as Argentina are blessed with having Matera in their side for the next decade and beyond, Leicester may have just signed the next great player - after Kronfeld, Back, Moody and Salvi - to fill that legendary number seven jersey.

by Ben Coles (@bencoles_)

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