Taulupe Faletau is relishing an inevitably ferocious battle for back-row starting places on the British & Irish Lions’ New Zealand tour.
And that could even include a head-to-head contest with his cousin — England and Saracens star Billy Vunipola — for the Lions’ Test number eight shirt.
Vunipola served further notice of his explosive game-breaking powers with a brilliant display in Saracens’ European Champions Cup final victory over Clermont Auvergne at Murrayfield two days ago. Faletau would not be averse to playing alongside him.
“Billy was immense at the weekend,” Faletau said. “He has been playing really well, and I am sure he will do that on tour. It is competition between us. It is healthy for me and him and the other back-row men.
“I would have no problems with [playing six]. If it means playing for the Lions, then I would not say no. Professionally, I have not played six. I have played seven a couple of times, though. For Wales there, too.
“With the injuries I had in the season, I have had a good run of games towards the end of the season, and it has helped.
“The end goal is the Test matches and winning those. But we have to get through those first [tour] games and get into the All Blacks at the end.
“We are going to have to be intense for 80 minutes to compete against them. Their [replacements] bench can make a difference, but the quality here is more than capable of matching that and being the impact we need.
“The group of boys in the squad is amazing. We have great talent, and everyone has a good mindset.”
Faletau’s optimism, meanwhile, is shared by Lions assistant coach Graham Rowntree.
“We go down there full of confidence,” Rowntree said. “We’ve got a great squad, the best squad I’ve been involved with for a long time. It’s going to have to be, let’s face it.
“I know how difficult selection was. We’ve got a real strong squad. They [New Zealand teams] always seem to be able to pull every tool out of the tool box when they need to.
“I have coached against New Zealand for a few years now. Their lineout, particularly with [Sam] Whitelock and [Kieran] Read involved, is very quick, a great defensive lineout, and one of their real sources of possession.
“Their scrum and breakdown has been up there as one of the best in the world for a long time. As a forwards coach, we have to address all those areas every day in training at the intensity that is going to be appropriate.”
Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/19390353/taulupe-faletau-relishing-british-irish-lions-starting-place-battle
Faletau relishing battle for Lions starting place
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