Matavesi leaves after five years at Northampton

Northampton Saints hooker Sam Matavesi has left after five years with the Premiership champions - to move across the English Channel.

The 32-year-old Fiji international is expected to sign for French Top 14 club Lyon.

Matavesi has scored 13 tries in 89 Saints appearances since arriving from Championship club Cornish Pirates at the start of the 2019-20 season.

The last of them came in the Premiership final win over Bath at Twickenham earlier this month when he came off the bench.

He follows the lead of England internationals Lewis Ludlam, whose move to another French Top 14 side Toulon was confirmed this week, and skipper Courtney Lawes, who is joning Brive.

“We’re disappointed that Sam has decided to move overseas," said Northampton director of rugby Phil Dowson.

“Sam has brought a lot, both on and off the pitch, to our group over the last few seasons.

"But we have a fantastic stable of hookers at Saints in Curtis Langdon, Robbie Smith and Craig Wright.

“Curtis and Robbie are both pushing for international selection with England and Scotland respectively, while Craig is currently England’s standout hooker at Under-20s level."

'Saints will miss their ebullient Cornish-Fijian'

Analysis by BBC Radio Northampton's Graham McKechnie:

"Sam Matavesi has been a hugely popular and important player for Saints in his five seasons at the club.

"It’s probably fair to say he exceeded most expectations.

"He joined the club in 2019 from Cornish Pirates and although he had played in the World Cup and had enjoyed a loan spell at Toulouse, not a great deal was known about him.

"But he had established himself as Saints’ first-choice hooker in his second season as a skilful ball-carrier – a position he kept until the arrival of Curtis Langdon.

"Although it’s a blow to Saints to lose him, at 32 it’s a good move for Matavesi and his family. And the club will be confident they already have the cover in place without their ebullient Cornish-Fijian."