Faletau set for record appearance
Youngster handed task of subduing Aussie star David Pocock
Last Updated: 20/10/11 3:18pm
Toby Faletau: Set to break record
Forward Toby Faletau will break a long-standing Wales World Cup record when he faces Australia in Friday's bronze medal clash.
It will be the Newport Gwent Dragons back-row's seventh successive start in one World Cup, beating the previous best of six set by Paul Thorburn, Adrian Hadley and Paul Moriarty 24 years ago.
Apart from creating a Wales World Cup best, he also has the task of coping with revered Australian openside David Pocock, having been switched from number eight to flanker as replacement for suspended skipper Sam Warburton.
But 20-year-old Faletau - who only made his Test debut in June - is taking everything in his stride.
"Coming out here, I didn't expect to start as much," he said.
"It has definitely been the greatest experience of my rugby-playing life.
"I just go out there to play rugby. I didn't start getting into rugby until I was a teenager, but my ambition has always been to play in a World Cup.
"David Pocock is one of the best sevens out there. I've only ever played one game at seven, for the Dragons against Munster, and we lost.
"It is a tough position - there is a lot more running - but I enjoyed it."
Faletau's impression on the World Cup is supported by statistical evidence that has put him top of Wales' tackling chart and ball-carrying list.
And he is ready to make one final lung-busting contribution when Wales target a victory over the Wallabies that would end their campaign in a manner most rugby observers would see as fitting.
"I am not tired," he added.
"We've been managed properly, and I have recovered well after matches. I am fine to go, and I can definitely get better.
"I definitely think Wales can use this tournament as a springboard to achieve things in the Six Nations this season. We can build on this."
Faletau has won many admirers with his style of rugby, and former Wales number eight and captain Scott Quinnell believes he epitomises a young generation of talent harnessed by Gatland.
The likes of Faletau, Warburton, wing George North, flanker Dan Lydiate and centre Jonathan Davies have all starred during the past six weeks.
And it augers well for Wales to make another major assault on World Cup glory when England host the tournament in four years' time.
"He has been been amazing," said Quinnell, of Faletau.
"What can you say? He has been absolutely magnificent.
"Look at the performances he's put in consistently. From the try he scored against South Africa, he has continued to carry ball and make his tackles.
"There is a wonderful balance in the back-row with Faletau, Lydiate and Warburton, three players who complement each other in all aspects of the game.
"I am just excited that it could be our back-row for 10 years to come."
While Faletau and company prepare for another test of their burgeoning quality, 34-year-old Wales wing Shane Williams will make his final World Cup appearance.
Whether or not it will be a last Test match outing before he retires from the international game remains to be seen, but he has relished every moment of Wales' World Cup campaign.
"I am getting to the age where I am looking around and I'm getting depressed just looking at these guys and looking at their dates of birth," he said.
"You could swear some of them have been playing for 20-odd years with the experience they've shown on the field.
"We came into this World Cup thinking we were capable of big things, and it is probably the first time I've gone into a major tournament with a Welsh team so confident.
"I would love to be able to play at home (Wales meet Australia in Cardiff on December 3) and have the chance to have my family and friends there.
"But I really don't know. I am just concerned about this game on Friday. After that, we will wait and see."