Wasps v Dragons teams: Family affair for Faletau
THERE will be a family dispute – for 80 minutes at least – at Adams Park tomorrow evening when Newport Gwent Dragons number eight Toby Faletau goes toe-to-toe with London Wasps back row forward Billy Vunipola.
The cousins, who are both renowned for their strong ball carrying, have been named in the starting line-ups for the Amlin Challenge Cup opener in Wycombe.
The pair grew up together in Wales when Toby's dad Kuli played for Ebbw Vale and Pontypool and Billy's dad Fe'ao played for Pooler, Caerphilly and Pontypridd.
"During the 1999 World Cup, when both of our dads were playing, they had camps back in Tonga and we lived together for quite a bit," said England Under-20s star Billy, whose brother Mako is on the books of Saracens.
"I was actually with him two weeks ago and I told him to take it easy on me when we play them!
"Near the end of my dad’s career both of our dads played together for Tonga. Kuli had the opportunity to come over (to Wales) and then my dad came over a little while after.
"Because it was such a small community we became very close and then we found out that our mums were related so we became even closer."
Faletau is joined in the back row by captain Lewis Evans and Tom Brown, who plays out of position at blindside flanker, while Rob Sidoli makes a welcome return at lock.
There are changes galore to set of three-quarters that started in defeat to the Scarlets last week with Dan Evans and Adam Hughes the only players retained, the former at full-back and the latter moving from wing to centre.
Lewis Robling is paired with Liam Davies at half-back, the former Brive and Scarlets scrum-half making his first start for the Dragons, while Will Harries and teenager Hallam Amos start on the wings.
Wasps plump for Nicky Robinson ahead of fellow former Wales international Stephen Jones at fly-half.
Compatriot Lee Thomas is in midfield while hooker Rhys Thomas, who joined Wasps from Cardiff Blues this summer, is on the bench.
England hopeful Christian Wade is rested while international forwards Tom Palmer and James Haskell are injured.
"Newport are a good honest side and if we are not 100 per cent up for the challenge they will happily punish us," said Wasps director of rugby, and former Blues boss, Dai Young.
Wasps: H Southwell (captain), J Wallace, C Bell, L Thomas, T Varndell, N Robinson, J Simpson, Z Taulafo, T Lindsay, F Staibano, J Launchbury, M Wentzel, A Johnson, J Poff, B Vunipola. Replacements: R Thomas, P Swainston, L Thiede, L Cannon, S Jones, C Davies, S Jones, E Daly.
Dragons: D Evans, W Harries, A Hughes, A Smith, H Amos, L Robling, L Davies, A Coundley, S Parry, N Buck, J Groves, R Sidoli, T Brown, L Evans, T Faletau. Replacements: H Gustafson, P Price, D Way, I Nimmo, I Jones, J Evans, J Dixon, T Prydie.