LEICESTER TIGERS, THE Premiership champions and Pool 5 opponents of Ulster in the Heineken Cup, have signed Argentina flanker Pablo Matera as an injury replacement for Tom Croft.
The powerful 20-year-old is highly rated in world rugby circles and it is understood he was being chased by several other clubs in England and France, including Heineken Cup holders Toulon.
Matera was a member of Argentina’s U20 side as recently as June, when he represented them at the Junior World Championship in France. His form at that tournament led to a senior call-up for the Rugby Championship, where he started all six games for Los Pumas and held his own against the likes of Richie McCaw and Michael Hooper.
With Tom Croft having been ruled out for the season with a knee injury, Leicester had been in the market for a suitable replacement. Director of rugby Richard Cockerill is understandably delighted with the capture of Matera, telling the Leicester Mercury:
He has only just turned 20 and I have been watching him play in the Rugby Championship this summer. He is one of the best young forwards in world rugby.
“He was keen to come, especially with Gonzalo Camacho and Marcos Ayerza here. He wanted to come to a place where he could play, learn and develop. And he chose to come to us despite several English and French clubs being after him.
“He has decided that this is the best place for him to develop as a player.”
Ulster face the Tigers on Friday night, but Matera is unlikely to be eligible for that clash as he is not yet registered in Leicester’s Heineken Cup squad. He may come into the picture later in the tournament as each club in the competition has the right to register up to two additional players during the pool stages, each to replace a player previously registered.
Mark Anscombe’s side will travel to Welford Road in January, possibly in need of a win to advance to the quarter-finals. If Matera is involved by then, he will prove a real handful for the likes of Chris Henry and Iain Henderson. The Argentinian is a rising star of the game, no doubt about it.Also Read