Faletau ready to lead from the front as Wales target successful Italian job
Bath number eight will captain his country for the first time in place of Alun Wyn Jones.
Captain Taulupe Faletau wants a new-look Wales team to express themselves and showcase their talent in Sunday’s NatWest 6 Nations clash against Italy.
Faletau has admitted he was “stunned” when Wales head coach Warren Gatland asked him to skipper his country for the first time.
TEAM NEWS 🏴 @taulupe returns to lead Wales against @Federugby. Croeso nol i'r wythwr profiadol Taulupe Faletau, sydd yn arwain Cymru dydd Sul: https://t.co/9Z0uPrdlFx #WALvITA pic.twitter.com/oZc2uOnSEv— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) March 7, 2018
But the 70 times-capped Bath number eight is also relishing an opportunity to help Wales rediscover winning ways following successive losses to England and Ireland.
Wales are seeking a 12th win on the bounce at Italy’s expense, and a bonus point victory in Cardiff this weekend would keep Faletau and company in contention for a top-two Six Nations finish.
“The boys have done some really good things in the last couple of games we’ve played,” said Faletau, who returns from injury to take charge of a Wales side containing Test newcomer James Davies, plus Davies’ fellow full Six Nations debutants in centre Owen Watkin and hooker Elliot Dee.
“We’ve seen in phases how exciting we can be, and for this game the challenge is to build on that.
“It’s just about working on what we’ve been doing in training and express yourself. When you look at the team we’ve got and the talent there, it’s about showcasing that on Sunday.”
Faletau has been handed captaincy duties instead of a rested Alun Wyn Jones, and Wales have plenty to play for.
Maximum five-point hauls against Italy and France – Les Bleus arrive at the Principality Stadium next Saturday – would ensure a reasonable Six Nations return.
Faletau, who has recovered from knee trouble, joins his fellow British and Irish Lions Test players George North and Justin Tipuric in being handed starts by Gatland as Wales look to inflict a fourth defeat of the Six Nations season on Italy.
“It’s good to be back out there with the boys, and to be given the opportunity to play again is awesome,” Faletau added. “Hopefully we can get a good performance and result.
“It is a huge honour to be given this opportunity, and I am looking forward to it.
“Being here is a dream in itself, and getting a chance to lead the team is a bonus.
Match Preview: @WelshRugbyUnion v @Federugby 👏— NatWest 6 Nations (@SixNationsRugby) March 9, 2018
Warren Gatland has made 🔟 changes to his starting XV, Conor O'Shea just 1⃣ - get the rest of the news here 👉 https://t.co/aEa2nhc4TI#NatWest6Nations pic.twitter.com/nPczXNaE12
“I’ve had to say a few more things now and again, but all in all, it has been pretty much the same approach to a Test game. The boys have trained well this week, the team run was pretty sharp, and hopefully we can take that into tomorrow.
“I was a bit stunned (to be offered the captaincy). But after thinking about it, it is definitely something I would probably regret not doing. So the obvious answer was saying yes.
“Hopefully, my actions can do the talking.”
Wales have never lost at home to Italy in the Six Nations, and they average 46 points a time against them over the last four meetings, twice topping 60 points during that period.