It says everything about Wales’ current back-row riches that Taulupe Faletau could be on the bench for next Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations clash against Scotland.
Number eight Faletau has provided a world-class presence for Wales since being handed his Test debut in 2011, making 60 starts during a 63-cap international career.
But the Bath forward’s injury-hit season opened a door for Gloucester prospect Ross Moriarty, who underlined his quality with a memorable performance in Wales’ 21-16 loss to England nine days ago.
With flankers Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric also in prime form – and Faletau now fully fit and playing – Wales boss Rob Howley faces an intriguing four-into-three selection challenge later this week.
“Ross is playing really well at the moment, and so are the other two,” Faletau said. “We work for each other, and whoever plays is worthy of playing. And to be honest, those three right now are playing really well. The boys are playing well at the moment, and it is down to the coaches to pick what team they pick.”
Faletau replaced Moriarty midway through the second half against England, and Howley must now decide whether to say same again or hand Faletau a first Test match start since Wales’ third Test defeat against New Zealand in Dunedin last June.
“Although the result didn’t go our way (against England), the performance was there, and everyone is looking forward to the next game,” Faletau added. “After losing last week, it (the title) is kind of out of our hands. We have just got to take each game as it comes. If we win our games, we are always in with a chance if somebody else slips up.”
Faletau has suffered two knee injuries this season, the first on his Bath debut five months ago after joining them from Newport Gwent Dragons, before another setback on Christmas Eve meant seven weeks sidelined.
Bath’s Aviva Premiership appointment with Harlequins two days ago was his first 80-minute run of the season, and he said: “I am just glad to be out there playing rugby again. It hasn’t been the season for it for me. I was just glad to get 80 minutes.
“It has been frustrating, but injuries are part of the game, and I have got to deal with it some time. They come around for everyone, and it has just seemed to be my time. I did a couple of weeks pre-season with the boys, which made the transition easier, joining the club and feeling at home.
“It is nice to have a change. Myself and the family are really enjoying it. We have made the move over to Bath, and it’s such a wonderful place with wonderful people. Yes, Bath is a rugby town, but they seem to kind of leave you alone. In Wales, you get a bit more attention.”
Wales will head to Edinburgh knowing that victory is essential to keep alive Six Nations title hopes, but England, whose next two games are against Italy and Scotland at Twickenham, remain firmly on course for a second successive Grand Slam.
“They are on 16 games unbeaten, and you can’t fault them,” Faletau added. “They have got that winning edge about them, and they got over the line against us.
“They have always been tough games against England, always tough encounters. They have got that confidence and they are used to winning. In those tight situations, they come out on top, and they did that against us.”