DRAGONS great Taulupe Faletau is relishing the return of Test match nerves after fearing he might not get the chance to play for Wales again.

The 29-year-old number eight will make his first international appearance since the 2018 Six Nations when he lines up against Italy at Principality Stadium this afternoon.

Faletau has been plagued by injuries with two broken arms and a knee issue before a collarbone injury suffered in a World Cup training camp ended his hopes of heading to Japan.

Finally, one of Wales' finest forwards is ready to return to the Test arena after 22 months of anguish.

South Wales Argus:

"There was a lot that went on in that time, and I am just glad to be back in the fold," said the Pontypool-raised back rower, who joins forces with Dragons flanker Aaron Wainwright and Justin Tipuric.

"My first game back (for Bath) it was like having my first run-out for the Dragons - it had been that long.

"I was definitely nervous. At one point you wonder if you can still play rugby. I am just glad to be out there playing.

"We trained at the stadium on Thursday and pulling in there brought a few nerves on. I am sure there will be more on Saturday.

"Just running out at the stadium is what I have missed most. When you're away for that length of time I guess I'll look forward to it more.

"Running out in front of that crowd is amazing and there is no place like Principality Stadium."

South Wales Argus:

Faletau made his Dragons debut against Edinburgh at Murrayfield in 2009 and went on to make 110 appearances for the region before leaving for Bath in 2016.

He made 62Test outings while at Rodney Parade but has totted up just 14 since heading for the Rec.

It's also been a case of quality but not quantity at Bath with just 39 club outings in the blue, black and white.

"With all those injuries it must have been crossing that bridge and the water in Bath must be strange, I'm not sure," joked Faletau.

"It's been a tough period in my career and with the management I've had, I've known how to deal with those situations."

The former Dragons number eight has displaced the current Dragons number eight with Ross Moriarty having to be content with a place on the bench.

Faletau was part of a combination with Sam Warburton and Dan Lydiate that was backed up by Tipuric and he knows the competition is just as stiff.

"I know of the strength of the back row," he said. "It could be anyone picked on any given weekend and it is on me to have a crack."

Faletau joins forces with Wainwright, a back rower who also enjoyed a rapid rise after being given an opportunity as a Dragons youngster.

The 22-year-old from Bassaleg has trodden a similar path to the 2013 and 2017 Lion.

"He's just a bit better probably!" said Faletau. "I'm a big fan. I like the way he plays the game – he’s a quality player."