Transfer tittle tattle will not rattle laidback Toby
CONNACHT v DRAGONS (Tomorrow, KO 5pm)
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons forwards coach Rob Appleyard believes talisman Toby Faletau is unfazed by talk linking him with a move away from the region – and he expects him to lead from the front once again versus Connacht.
The number eight has been linked with a move to the Aviva Premiership with Bath reportedly prepared to pay a six-figure transfer fee to buy him out of the final year of his contract.
Toby Booth, head coach at the Rec, has since dismissed such talk while Dragons chairman Martyn Hazell insisted there is no chance of any bid being entertained.
Amid all the speculation, Appleyard insists it’s business as usual for the Dragons’ laidback 22-year-old talisman.
“I don’t think it fazes him,” said the forwards coach, who also has responsibility for defence.
“Toby turns up and trains as hard as anybody for us, even when he’s only just come back from an international campaign.
“He’s a one-off character and just a really good rugby player. We can talk about a new lineout set-up that he’s never heard before yet he delivers it straight away.
“With Toby you don’t want to over-coach him and risk losing his X factor – he just runs as though he doesn’t care and beats people with ease.
“He has done that for us over the last few games and will be crucial in Galway. Toby always beats the first tackler, keeps the ball and gives continuity in our attacking play.”
Meanwhile, Appleyard insists the door is not shut on Steffan Jones despite the fly-half not being involved in the squad for tomorrow’s clash.
The 22-year-old was an unused replacement in the New Year’s Eve loss to the Ospreys after coming into the 23 following the injury suffered by Dan Evans against Cardiff Blues on Boxing Day.
Lewis Robling had a tough game against the Ospreys but will once again be handed the number 10 jersey against Connacht.
“When you are trying to develop players and they make mistakes, you show them the mistakes, set them goals and put them back out on the field,” said Appleyard.
“Sometimes people might ask ‘why are they going with him again?’ – it’s because they are talented players that are only going to get better by being put back out there.
“They are cutting their teeth and will gain from their experiences, and how will we know if they have learnt their lesson without playing them again?
“It’s tough on Steffan but we have picked a team that we think can deliver tactically and technically for us.
“I know Lewis made some errors (against the Ospreys) but you can end up trying to change the side too much and then nobody learns.
“Steff is a great player that we know can produce at regional level but the way the cards have fallen means that it’s Lewis’ chance at the moment.”
Wing Tonderai Chavhanga and centre Adam Hughes return to the squad that travels to Galway today, the latter’s return being especially timely after Pat Leach suffered a bang to the head against the Ospreys.
Fly-half/full-back Evans could return from his ankle injury in the Amlin Challenge Cup clash in Bayonne on Thursday.
Dragons squad: H Amos, T Prydie, T Chanvhanga, W Harries, A Hughes, J Dixon, A Tuilagi, A Smith, L Robling, W Evans, J Evans, P Price, O Evans, H Gustafson, S Parry, N Buck, D Way, R Sidoli, A Jones, A Coombs, J Groves, L Evans, T Brown, T Faletau, N Cudd.