CHRIS KIRWAN: Wales in desperate need of a Faletau deputy

CHRIS KIRWAN: Wales in desperate need of a Faletau deputy

CHRIS KIRWAN: Wales in desperate need of a Faletau deputy

First published in Sport

PEPE Reina has been to four major football tournaments but has tasted action just once, a Euro 2008 group game against Greece when qualification was already assured.

The goalkeeper has got splinters in his backside from the Spanish bench while Iker Casillas has donned the gloves yet his trophy cabinet features winners' medals from the 2008 and 2012 European Championships as well as the 2010 World Cup.

Tavaris Jackson, back-up quarterback to Russell Wilson, threw the ball just 13 times for Seattle last season but sports a Super Bowl ring on his finger.

They aren't the main men but it's nice to know that there is someone capable to step into the star's shoes if needed.

There are 18 months until the 2015 World Cup kicks off and time is running out for Wales to find an able deputy for number eight Taulupe Faletau.

Fourteen players have been given starts at the Welsh regions this season.

Faletau (11), Netani Talei (7), Lewis Evans (3) and Ieuan Jones (4) for Newport Gwent Dragons; Robin Copeland (19), Andries Pretorius (5) and Luke Hamilton (2) for Cardiff Blues; Joe Bearman (14), Morgan Allen (7), Ryan Jones (4) and Dan Baker (1) for the Ospreys; Rob McCusker (18), Josh Turnbull (4) and Sione Timani (4) for the Scarlets.

Welsh-qualified back row forwards have been given the nod for 71 per cent of 103 games and yet, with Ryan Jones now more of a six than an eight, the best option for Warren Gatland should Faletau break down is to shift Sam Warburton across from openside flanker.

It's hard to see that changing by the time that the head coach selects his 30 men for next year's tournament.

Wales Under-20s did not field a specialist number eight in the Six Nations, shifting Dragons flanker James Benjamin into the position for three of their five games.

His predecessor Jones, who was at the base of the scrum in last year's Junior World Championship, has stagnated at Rodney Parade this season and will move to Cardiff Blues next season in a bid to revive his burgeoning career.

Go through the other Welsh-qualified starters and there are no standout candidates but it is Baker that, despite being fourth the Ospreys' fourth option, seems to be Gatland's chosen one.

The 21-year-old, who has played most of his rugby for Swansea in the Premiership, was selected on the tour to Japan last summer and joined the national squad for training in the Six Nations.

But it would be asking a lot for Baker to make the required improvements to be in the mix for 2015.

The likelihood is that Wales will head to the World Cup with just one specialist number eight with Warburton backing him up.

There is little chance of Faletau sweating on his place when the tournament comes around.

Comments (1)

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12:10pm Thu 20 Mar 14

exMark says...

Faleau injured,
6.Lydiate, 7. Tipuric 8. Warburton.

Warburton injured.
6. Lydiate 7.Tipuric 8.Faletau

Lydiate Injured
6.Warburton 7. Tipuric 8.Faletau

It's when two of them get injured, thats when we're in trouble. Ryan Jones would be the obvious candidate to slot in at 6/8 but he isn't getting any younger.

We do seem to have a surplus of quality second rowers with AWJ, Charteris, Evans, Brad Davies and Jake Ball. Might be worth seeing if any of them can have a go at 6 in South Africa to add bulk and lineout options. England have occasionally used second rower Dave Atwood at 6 off the bench to good effect.
Faleau injured, 6.Lydiate, 7. Tipuric 8. Warburton. Warburton injured. 6. Lydiate 7.Tipuric 8.Faletau Lydiate Injured 6.Warburton 7. Tipuric 8.Faletau It's when two of them get injured, thats when we're in trouble. Ryan Jones would be the obvious candidate to slot in at 6/8 but he isn't getting any younger. We do seem to have a surplus of quality second rowers with AWJ, Charteris, Evans, Brad Davies and Jake Ball. Might be worth seeing if any of them can have a go at 6 in South Africa to add bulk and lineout options. England have occasionally used second rower Dave Atwood at 6 off the bench to good effect. exMark
  • Score: 2

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