Taulupe Faletau playing his way into Lions Test reckoning, says Will Greenwood
Last Updated: 03/05/17 10:04pm
Bath and Wales No 8 Taulupe Faletau is playing his way back into form ahead of the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand and will come into the Test reckoning, Will Greenwood has said.
Faletau has struggled with two knee injuries this season and though he made it back in time for the Six Nations, he failed to force his way past Ross Moriarty into the Wales starting XV.
The 26-year-old appeared off the substitutes' bench in four of Wales' five Six Nations games, with three of them defeats in a disappointing campaign.
As such, his selection as part of Warren Gatland's Lions squad came as somewhat of a surprise, but the backrower notched a hat-trick for Bath on Sunday against Gloucester, something Greenwood thinks will have Gatland delighted.
"Faletau was one of those players who came into it [Lions selection] with a lot of muscle memory from Warren Gatland," Greenwood told Sky Sports News HQ.
"He's [Faletau] one of the guys he [Gatland] coached to World Cup semi-finals, Grand Slams. He's absolutely been one of Gatland's go-to men.
"He was brilliant in New Zealand last summer. Huge defensive work rate, wonderful ball player. He's one of those players that has virtually a zero error count, and he scores some tries.
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"Coming back at the weekend, playing his way into form, his combination with Fotuali'i at nine at Bath has been brilliant.
"Taulupe's on the back end of a hat-trick and just reminds Billy Vunipola, who is everyone's starting eight at the moment, that he's one to be considered and as the tour goes on, with his experience, will certainly come into the reckoning in terms of Test selection.
"What we also saw with his tries, one chip over from Fotuali'i, was real gas up the left-hand touchline, which means he'd be comfortable in a six jersey. So that then tells CJ Stander and Peter O'Mahony: 'Don't just think you've got the six jersey available to yourselves.'
"He's a quite brilliant rugby player and Gatland will be chuffed. He was one of those players who the form of the Six Nations would have said Moriarty and co and Faletau was on the bench. Gatland goes: 'I know him. When it's a big game, he delivers'. He'll be chuffed to see that happening."
New Zealand captain and No 8 Kieran Read broke his thumb playing for the Crusaders against the Cheetahs on Saturday, putting his series place in jeopardy.
Greenwood added that he fully expects Read to make it in time, claiming that the injury may even work in New Zealand's favour.
"He broke his thumb, but I've seen Lawrence Dallaglio's thumbs, and I've seen Zinzan Brooke's thumbs and No 8's seem to have thumbs pointing in 37 different directions," Greenwood added.
"They reckon about a six-week layoff [for Read], my maths this morning was telling me it's still 55 days until the first Test.
"He's one of those players...he's an All Black captain, a double World Cup winner, he's a winner. It's [his injury] one of those weird ones, Alun-Wyn Jones and Sam Warburton have picked up injuries, initially there is fear and dread, then when you let the dust settle, think about it 48 hours later, Steve Hansen will go: 'I don't mind that.'
"He's [Read] one of those players who needs four minutes on a rugby field and he's back in great form. Actually, to have him out missing some key games and then available just in the run-up and build-up, might play back into their favour."