TOBY Faletau has admitted the heat will be on at the start of next season as he attempts to wrestle the Wales number eight jersey off in-form Ryan Jones.
The Newport Gwent Dragons back row forward was forced home early from the tour of Australia when he broke a bone in his right hand tackling Wycliff Palu in the first Test.
It brought to an end a remarkable run of starts for his country in big games.
Jones wore the number eight jersey in June’s encounter with the Barbarians while Faletau was on his way Down Under with the other Test starters.
That was the first time that somebody else had been at the base of the scrum for Wales since the 21-year-old made his debut against the Baa Baas 16 Tests earlier in June 2011.
And it was Jones that once again stepped in after Faletau’s misfortune in Brisbane and the Newport-born Ospreys star took his chance rivaling Leigh Halfpenny for the honour of Wales’ player of the series.
It leaves Faletau in the same boat as his Dragons teammate Dan Lydiate, who went on to be named Six Nations player of the tournament after being pushed hard for the start by Jones, who starred in his absence in the tournament opener in Dublin.
And with openside flanker Justin Tipuric also putting pressure on skipper Sam Warburton, there promises to be an almighty scrap for back row spots in the line-up against Argentina on November 10.
“Ryan was awesome in Australia and he is playing very well at the moment,” said Faletau. “His performances were great for the Ospreys at the end of last season and he carried that on for Wales.
“I know that I will need to play well for the Dragons to get back in and we are all fighting hard for the starts. There is real competition across the back row.”
Faletau was forced to watch the two-point defeat in Melbourne and one-point loss in Sydney from the comfort of his living room.
And the number eight has admitted that putting his feet up earlier than planned was probably a blessing in disguise after a hectic year.
“It has been a long season and it’s probably done me good to get a few weeks off and be able to chill out,” said Faletau, who is jetting off for a week in Mallorca before starting pre-season training.
“I need a break but I am looking forward to getting back into it.”