By Graham Thomas
Taulupe Faletau has never been short of belief in Wales – so he reckons this could be a big month for the rugby and football teams.
Asked how he thinks Robert Page’s men might do at the World Cup in Qatar, the Wales No.8 says: “Well, hopefully, they’ll bring it back!
“You have to have a bit of belief along the way. They left from the Vale (Resort) and we were around so we gave them a little wave to show our support.”
That “little wave” was a full blown guard of honour in the hotel’s reception that proved a huge hit on the social media channels of both sports’ associations.
Having seen them off, Faletau will concentrate on making sure Wales beat Georgia on Saturday – extended highlights of which will be shown on S4C – before he settles down to watch the other national team’s World Cup opener against the USA on Monday.
No rugby player in Wales is closer to the beating heart of the football team than Faletau – at least through marriage.
His wife, Charlotte Rhys Jones, happens to be the sister of Emma Rhys Jones, the wife of Wales captain Gareth Bale.
“They’ve done okay for themselves, the Rhys Joneses,” he jokes.
— Wales 🏴 (@Cymru) November 15, 2022
Between the two couples, they have six children which must offer students of the genetics of sports science hope that the future of Welsh football and rugby is in good hands for at least one more generation.
But while Bale has become the leader of the Wales football team, Faletau – despite his huge experience – has never been in any rush to wear the captain’s armband.
The Cardiff No.8 – who will start on the bench against the Georgians after Wales coach Wayne Pivac decided to make six changes – admits the formal nature of leadership isn’t really his style.
He’s more of a doer. Less of a talker.
“I don’t naturally see myself as a leader, other than through my actions,” he says.
“When I started in the Wales team it was players like Alun Wyn Jones and Gethin Jenkins who we’d all look to and they would certainly let you know if you weren’t on point.
“Those verbals helped me to develop. It was always direct, and it helped me to know where I was – that was helpful to me.”
Indeed. That makes Mrs Faletau the sister-in- law of Gareth Bale and he is her brother-in-law. The two chaps are not in laws for each other. Them’s the rules.
— Philip Connolly (@pgconnolly54) February 13, 2020
Faletau was man-of-the-match in last week’s 20-13 victory over Argentina as Wales recovered with spirit and aggression from the mauling they had suffered against the All Blacks the week before.
The former Bath back rower – who scored on his 32nd birthday against the Pumas – is starting among the replacements this weekend, as Wales coach Wayne Pivac takes the opportunity to run the rule over Josh Macleod.
After a couple of false starts and near misses, Scarlets forward Macloed will make his international debut and bid to show he can add to Pivac’s options, which now include Jac Morgan, an emphatic plus point for the coach when he came on as a back row replacement last week.
“I thought Jac was awesome when he came on against Argentina and he made a real impact,” says Faletau.
“But now we have to concentrate on Georgia. They will be very similar to Argentina – big, physical men and we will certainly need to front up again.
“Rugby is a physical game and if you’re not physical then you get found out. That is what happened against the All Blacks.
— Mike Pearce Rugby (@MPsportsdragon) November 17, 2022
“But we bounced back well against Argentina. It was just a shame we didn’t score more points.
“The Georgia game is another opportunity for us to build on last week, before we finish the series with another difficult match against Australia.”
The Georgians are getting closer to the standards of the Six Nations every year, a fact reflected in their most recent results.
They hammered Italy 28-19 in the summer, comfortably beat Portugal and Uruguay, before losing by a single point to Samoa, 20-19 last time out.
Pivac insists: “Georgia are a side that will be not too dissimilar to Argentina in terms of the forward play, they’re very strong up front.
“Traditionally they’ve been good in the set piece, good driving line-out and very physical.
“We need to back up the performance against Argentina, be a lot more clinical with the ball.”
S4C: Saturday, 8.30pm – Wales v Georgia
Extended highlights of the match between Wales and Georgia in the Autumn Nations Series, played earlier in the day at the Principality Stadium.