Faletau embraces fresh start
February 5, 2012
Toby Faletau was one of the shining lights for Wales during the 2011 World Cup © Getty Images
Wales No.8 Toby Faletau has impressed the need for his charges to forget their World Cup heartbreak and embrace the new start offered by the 2012 Six Nations.
Faletau views the tournament as "a new beginning" for Wales as they prepare to tackle opponents whose World Cup dream he helped destroy in Wellington four months ago. The Newport Gwent Dragons number eight was an ever-present throughout Wales' World Cup campaign, playing a major role in posting their best performance on a global stage since 1987.
And while the tournament semi-finalists can still reflect on a job well done in New Zealand - coupled a sense of with frustration that it could, and possibly should, have been even better - Faletau knows that life must move on.
"We can't live on the World Cup," said the 21-year-old, who is one of 10 survivors from Wales' 22-10 quarter-final victory over Ireland. "We've got to move on. It is a new beginning. We start again this weekend, and, hopefully, we will build momentum and go on from there.
"I was just glad to win the quarter-final and come through the game. We defended well, and that made the difference. We had our game-plan, and it worked."
Key to Wales' success that day was Faletau's display alongside his back-row colleagues Dan Lydiate and Sam Warburton in stopping a revered Irish breakaway trio of Stephen Ferris, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip at source. An injured Lydiate is replaced in the number six shirt by former Wales captain Ryan Jones tomorrow, and Faletau expects another punishing battle.
"Ryan is a great player, and it is a case of same again this weekend," Faletau added. "We have definitely got to stop their back-row, because they are all brilliant players who are important to the Ireland team."
And if Wales can record only their third Six Nations win in Dublin since the competition began 12 years ago, then Faletau will salute an absent friend. Dragons hooker Lloyd Burns is among a clutch of Wales players absent from tomorrow's game due to injury - in Burns' case a season-ending neck problem that saw him spend some time in hospital.
"He has got to rest up and make a full recovery, and it would be nice to win against Ireland for Lloyd," Faletau said. "We've just got to get out there and give it a go."
Wales have been boosted by World Cup stars Jamie Roberts and Rhys Priestland both being declared fit for the game, with their recoveries from knee injuries meaning that coach Warren Gatland can field six of the seven backs on duty in Wellington. Centre Roberts has not featured competitively since Christmas, while Scarlets fly-half Priestland suffered knee trouble during a Heineken Cup game two weeks ago.
Hooker Huw Bennett, meanwhile, will win his 50th cap - only the second Wales hooker to achieve that feat after Garin Jenkins - and Gatland clocks up a half-century of games in charge of Wales since he was appointed for the 2008 Six Nations campaign.
Roberts said: "I am just delighted to be part of such a huge match. I am sure I will be blowing a bit in the first 10 minutes, but then I will settle down. I hope I am good enough after six to eight weeks out.
"We not only need to emulate that World Cup game, but also improve on it, because nothing less will do. We need to produce the perfect game to beat Ireland - that is what it will take. We were very close to being perfect in the World Cup game, and we all need to put our hands up and produce again.
"Ireland away first up is one of the toughest challenges you can have in the tournament. Their players are playing well domestically, and they have the motivation of the World Cup and the defeat to us last year.
"The winning team in the first Six Nations game can get on a snowball, while the losers go away knowing that all the pressure is on them to win their next match to stay in the hunt."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The latest Week in Pictures takes in all the action from the weekend when rugby united behind Samoa
The Wallabies showed flair in Dublin, but they still have a way to go if they are to do more than make up the numbers at the World Cup, writes Greg Growden
England broke their losing streak, but this was not them clawing their way back among the best, writes Tom Hamilton
Wales' lessons to learn in defeat by New Zealand are almost exactly the same as those from previous near-misses, writes Huw Richards