Tabai Matson: Harlequins senior coach looks to ‘add value’ for Premiership champions

Harlequins senior coach Tabai Matson
Former New Zealand Under-20s coach Tabai Matson joined Harlequins, who beat Exeter 40-38 in last season’s Premiership final, this summer

Tabai Matson aims to “add value” at Harlequins after joining the defending Premiership champions as senior coach.

“I am not taking over anything. It is about how we strengthen the culture,” he told the Rugby Union Weekly podcast.

“It is about getting on the boat and making sure I’m paddling in the same direction as everybody else.”

Matson, who played internationally for New Zealand and Fiji, brings a range of coaching experience to the Twickenham Stoop.

The 48-year-old has previously had assistant roles at New Zealand Super Rugby sides Chiefs and Crusaders, and was head coach under Todd Blackadder at Bath for the 2016-17 Premiership season.

“I’ve been here five weeks and I’ve been learning frantically and observing,” Matson added.

“If you remove my badge, my title and where I am meant to sit in the hierarchy, I am like all the other new blokes and just trying to belong.

“It doesn’t matter what position you fit in in the organisation – get in and paddle in the direction we want to send the boat.”

Quins ‘clear on club DNA’

After Gustard’s departure, general manager Billy Millard oversaw first-team affairs for the rest of last season with support from attack and backs coach Nick Evans, scrum coach Adam Jones and lineout and defence coach Jerry Flannery.

Quins won five of their final seven games to clinch a play-off spot, came from 28-0 down against Bristol to win their semi-final and then beat Exeter Chiefs 40-38 in the Premiership final playing a brand of attacking rugby.

Matson says his previous sides have “completely different environments”, but Harlequins’ playing ethos has helped him settle in to his new role.

“Quins are really clear on their DNA and what makes them tick,” he added.

“It is easy to coach when the identity is clear, and they are also really determined about the style of play.

“I feel grateful that I have come to a club that is positive.”

Harlequins celebrate with the Premiership trophy
Harlequins won the Premiership title for the second time by beating reigning champions Exeter at Twickenham in June

However, Matson has warned the south-west London outfit must not stand still following their surprise title triumph, especially with the likes of Exeter, Bristol and Sale expected to challenge and Saracens back in the top flight.

“It is hard to create a culture and Harlequins did it last year,” he said. “You hope that happens again but it won’t automatically happen.

“The big difference this year is there is no going under the radar for the first three months. There will be no ambushing teams for an easy win.

“Every team has crosshairs on the current champions.”

BBC News