Break from action was so key for Saints star Matavesi as he gets ready for the run-in

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After all that he had to deal with during the second half of 2023, Sam Matavesi really needed some time to reset.

And thanks to the pause in Saints’ season due to the Guinness Six Nations, that was exactly what the Fiji hooker got.

Having been away with his country for several months, preparing for and playing in last year’s Rugby World Cup, Matavesi had to deal with the death of his father during the tournament.

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He still managed to take to the field for the quarter-final against England, with Fiji eventually falling just short, before returning to Saints.

Sam Matavesi (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)Sam Matavesi (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Sam Matavesi (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Week after week, there were big battles to face, on and off the field.

But Matavesi somehow dealt with them and helped his club to record 10 successive wins in all competitions.

It means that they now return to action this weekend on an incredible run of form.

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They are looking forward to sharpening up again in friendlies against DHL Stormers and Sale Sharks before the return to Gallagher Premiership action at Bristol Bears on March 22.

And Matavesi is clearly feeling rested and recharged.

The affable forward said: “I needed some time after a long World Cup and my old man passing away, it was pretty key that I got away from rugby and just enjoyed some time away from it.

"People forget that you're away for two months before a World Cup and it's a long time to be away in that environment consistently.

"Getting to a quarter-final of a World Cup was incredible but you're there for a bit more so the break came at the right time.

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"The World Cup happened and my dad passed away but I played in the quarter-final and came back and sorted the funeral out with my brothers. Then my next game was Leicester away and I remember just being like my head is everywhere, not really into it, not really out of it, just not really knowing.

"It was key then just trying to get an understanding and a bit of normality before you actually know you're going to get a break."

But Matavesi has now had enough of weekends without games.

“The first two weeks it's lovely and you're not really thinking about rugby as much,” he said. “You're trying to enjoy some time and then you've got another four weeks where there's no game on the weekend.

"Usually if the week's hard you've got to carry it within you and there's a carrot at the weekend to go out and try to enjoy, but we've had no carrot in the past few weeks.”

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But while the break from action has felt lengthy, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been fun and worthwhile.

“It's been really good,” Matavesi said.

"When you're a player in that sort of environment, you're like 'we're just going to get beasted for four weeks', but we've actually built it up really well and you'll see on Saturday that boys are itching to play again.

"There have been a few weight sessions but it hasn't been all out crazy and we've actually been managed really well.”

Every Saints player has been given the chance to work on things they feel they need to.

So what has Matavesi been up to?

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"I've been doing more weights, doing some throwing and seeing if I can get my body right because I've had some niggles and knocks,” he said.

"I've also been doing a bit more yoga and if it works for Ryan Giggs, it can work for anyone!”

Saints went into the break seven points clear at the top of the Gallagher Premiership and into the last 16 of the Investec Champions Cup.

And they know that they are now there to be shot at when the competitive action resumes against Bristol.

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"At the start of the year, you want to be one or two and get that home semi-final,” Matavesi said.

"We want to carry on being top but it's different because when you're fifth or sixth you want to get to fourth but now people are looking at us at the top.

"It's on us now.

"Bristol away on a Friday night is going to be very tough and before the break they got some momentum. They beat Bath at home so it will be a huge game."

Saints have been working hard to get their preparations right to ensure they hit the same heights they achieved before the break.

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“The boys that have gone to the Six Nations have been massive and I think Furbs (George Furbank) has been the player of the Prem this season personally,” Matavesi said. “So we need to get back to that level in the next couple of weeks so that come Bristol we're firing again.

"We've got Bristol, Sarries, Munster so you have a massive break, two friendlies and then go into that sort of run-in.

"It is a massive test and it's one that everyone's looking forward to.”