Quinnell buoyed by back-row strength
August 11, 2011
Quinnell believes Wales are blessed with a host of able options in the back-row © Getty Images
It's one of the oldest tales in the book - the passing of the baton between the grizzled veteran and precocious youngster.
In the last 12 months Welsh rugby fans have already welcomed Sam Warburton onto the international stage as the replacement for the venerable Martyn Williams - a player oft deemed irreplaceable.
Now there is a battle for position at No.8 in the Wales squad for the Rugby World Cup, where 20-year-old Dragons powerhouse Toby Faletau is learning his trade at international level in the shadow of former Grand Slam skipper Ryan Jones.
Jones' apparent fall from grace last year - where he lost the captaincy in the wake of a troubling draw with Fiji - ended up giving the Ospreys back-rower a new lease of life. His dignity was appreciated far and wide and his Six Nations performances were among his best in years.
But with Wales again up against England at the Millennium Stadium this weekend and the World Cup around the corner, the desire to see the hugely impressive Faletau get a second bite at the cherry after last weekend's loss at Twickenham is burning bright.
Scott Quinnell, one of Wales' finest No.8s, believes that Jones' excellent second-half contribution last weekend should see him given time to kick back before catching the flight to New Zealand, with Faletau in need of all the game-time he can get at Test level.
"Ryan Jones did particularly well when he came on," Quinnell said. "He brought a bit of direction back into the play, but that back-row [Faletau, Warburton and Dan Lydiate] Wales will depend on for the next couple of World Cups after this.
"It's an opportunity for them, we know what Ryan can do and we want to keep some energy in those legs going forward. I think he will end up covering the second-row and No.8."
Faletau made a number of errors at the base of an under-powered Welsh scrum at Twickenham, but Quinnell is confident that the selectors will show faith in him. With British & Irish Lions tight-head Adam Jones set to return and anchor the scrum this weekend, Faletau may yet get to show some of the pace and swagger that made him such a threat for the Dragons last season.
"He had some good touches, he made himself available and got into the game," Quinnell said. "One game won't deter the selectors from picking him again and it would be nice to see him get a run of games before they make any wholesale changes. We're not the biggest side in the world, but what we have is pace and power. We've got to utilise that in aspects of our game."
Looking further ahead, Wales' World Cup group is something of a nightmare. Behind the World Champions, South Africa, are Fiji and Samoa - conquerors of the Welsh in 1991, 1999 and 2007 respectively. Warren Gatland's side will not want for a physical examination or two and Quinnell believes that any Welsh reversals should not be treated as 'mishaps' - particularly given Samoa's recent victory over Australia in Sydney.
"I'm not sure it's a case of slipping up this time when you look at the performance that Samoa put in against Australia," he said. "A lot of people said that Australia lost that game but it was more Samoa winning it. Fiji are always a very dangerous side and as we saw in '07, we were expected to beat them but they will be very physical and very strong, especially in the defensive areas.
"South Africa are the most physical side in the world, so i don't think that there's ever been a more physical Pool in World cup history. Wales are in that Pool but we've got to believe in our fitness and believe in the way we play the game, we've got to continue to attack and hopefully that will pay dividends in the end."
Heineken, the world's leading premium beer brand, announced former Wales captain Scott Quinnell as a brand ambassador to promote its sponsorship of the Rugby World Cup 2011 and new campaign, entitled 'This is the Game', which focuses on the unwritten code of values implicit in rugby union on and off the pitch.
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Huw Baines is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.