TAULUPE Faletau is closing in on a return for Bath to give Wales a Six Nations boost, and put the heat on Dragons duo Aaron Wainwright and Taine Basham, writes Chris Kirwan.

The number eight has not played this season after suffering an ankle injury on the British and Irish Lions' tour to South Africa.

The 31-year-old Dragons favourite from Pontypool, who is joining Cardiff next season, is close to a return for struggling Bath, who host Worcester on Sunday before scheduled European clashes with La Rochelle and Leinster.

They take on Harlequins the weekend before the Six Nations gets under way.

Wales star Taulupe Faletau in action against England

Wales star Taulupe Faletau in action against England

"Taulupe is not too far away," said Bath director of rugby Stuart Hooper. "It's an aggravation of the ankle injury he picked up the first time he trained with us after the Lions tour.

"It's just that which is keeping him away from training, but he's progressed in the last few weeks and hopefully we'll see him back out there sooner rather than later."

The return is a huge boost for Wales' Six Nations title defence after they were without a raft of back rowers in the autumn internationals.

That led to the emergence of Basham at openside with his Rodney Parade teammate Wainwright getting the nod at number eight.

Faletau enjoyed a superb Championship to help Wales win the title last year and Wayne Pivac would welcome his experience for the campaign, which starts against Ireland in Dublin.

Hooper stressed that a cautious approach is needed given the 86-times capped back rower's lack of action.

"Taulupe's a world-class player and always gets talked about when the Six Nations comes around, but he's not played rugby since before the Lions Test matches," said the former lock.

"That's a long time without playing and we want to see him back playing for Bath as soon as possible. Then I'm sure Wales will want to look at him after that."