Dragon Toby Faletau on a mission to stop Jamie Heaslip
WALES v IRELAND (Today, KO 1.30)
TOBY Faletau will be charged with toppling Ireland’s talisman as Wales attempt to get the defence of their Six Nations crown off to a flyer this afternoon.
The iconic Australia cricket team of the 1990s and early 2000s put a great emphasis on going after the opposition’s captain.
It was a policy that was still in place when they headed to Cardiff for the 2009 Ashes opener when Ricky Ponting signalled their intention to set their sights on Andrew Strauss.
“We try to target the opposition captain a little bit,” he said. “If you do that you generally take another couple of guys down with him.”
A short stroll away from the Swalec Stadium number eight Faletau will be attempting to do just that.
The Newport Gwent Dragons star will have a direct confrontation with Jamie Heaslip, Ireland’s captain and favourite to be at the base of the Lions scrum in Australia this summer.
The powerful Leinsterman is known for his thundering charges with ball in hand while Faletau is slightly more dynamic, relying on quick feet rather than bulk.
Both methods are incredibly effective and the pair will be looking to rack up the yardage while preventing their rivals from building up a head of steam on the Cardiff turf.
And if Faletau can win his personal duel then it will strike a telling blow as Wales bid to end a run of seven successive Test defeats.
“It’s a personal thing that you take into every game,” said the 22-year-old. “Everyone wants to win the battle with their opposite number and if I can have the better of their captain then great.
“Heaslip is their captain and the one that leads the charge for them, he carries a lot of ball and is aggressive in everything he does in both attack and defence.
“There are a lot of top quality number eights out there and he is up with the best of them.
“Ireland have named him captain for a reason, he always leads by example.
“They always have a quality back row and we know that it’s going to be a great challenge and a massive battle.”