Belfast Telegraph

Other side: Faletau saga is casting a cloud over Dragons

By Michael Sadlier

For the Dragons, it just seems to be the story which simply won't go away. And, yes, it's not exactly a hugely positive one for the Welsh region either.

The wrangle over their star player Taulupe or 'Toby' Faletau's future has just dragged on from the rather unusual tug of war which took place last week when the WRU stepped in to put the brakes on the No.8's intended move to Bath.

The Lions player was all set to nip across the Welsh border to pursue his career for a reported six-figure sum when Wales coach Warren Gatland and the WRU weighed in wielding paperwork which derailed the whole plan.

Or rather it seemed to, as it actually appears that Faletau can leave Rodney Parade as a free agent at the season's end meaning that he can join Bath for effectively nothing.

It has all left a rather sour taste to a messy enough situation. The WRU want to hold onto Faletau and even persuade him to stay in the principality, but by all means exit the Dragons, while the Newport-based club realise that their main asset really wants to be away and were willing to assist him in his aim while also claiming a useful transfer fee.

Somewhere in the middle of it all is a very disillusioned player who looked a mere shadow of himself at last weekend's not unexpected defeat at PRO12 leaders Scarlets.

As for the also aired notion that the Wales star might just react to all this angst by shrugging his shoulders and sticking around the Dragons, the region's head coach Lyn Jones has made it known that he doesn't see this outcome being too likely for the 24-year-old.

"His head has been turned this season," was how Jones saw the option of his player lingering in Newport.

Meanwhile, there are games to be played and, as usual, the Dragons find themselves in the lower regions of the table with ambitions to improve.

Jones is hoping that Faletau - who starts tomorrow - is in a better place this weekend than at Parc y Scarlets as the Dragons chase a third straight home win over Ulster. And no better time to further bolster their record at Rodney Parade.

The head coach has made five changes as the Dragons bid to add Ulster to their only two wins, so far, over Zebre and Treviso - which both came at Rodney Parade.

Twenty-year-old flanker Ollie Griffiths makes his first PRO12 start while, also in the pack, prop Shaun Knight and second row Cory Hill are brought in.

The backline has two alterations from the trip to west Wales with Carly Meyer and new signing Sarel Pretorius at full-back and scrum-half respectively.

Doubtless relieved to just be talking about their next game now, Jones said: "If we are going to beat Ulster we have got to play.

"Ulster are the team in the league who kick the most and will drag the game into a kicking duel. We cannot afford to play rugby on the tail end of a really good kick.

"We have to play on the front-foot when circumstances arise and need to be patient in the kicking battle."

The visitors have been warned.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph