Welsh Rugby
Gatland impressed by Faletau
ESPNscrum Staff
May 6, 2011
Dragons No.8 Toby Faletau, Newport Gwent Dragons v Wasps, Heineken Cup, Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, December 12, 2010
The big-haired Faletau has caught Wales coach Warren Gatland's eye in recent weeks © Getty Images

Wales coach Warren Gatland has dropped a clear hint that exciting Newport Gwent Dragons prospect Toby Faletau will be handed the chance to press his World Cup selection claims next month.

The uncapped back-row forward has been in blistering Magners League form for the Dragons in recent weeks and the 20-year-old can expect to be named in a 24-man Wales squad next week ahead of a June 4 appointment with the Barbarians in Cardiff.

"The stand-out player I've seen in the last couple of weeks is Toby Faletau," Gatland commented yesterday. "The last two games I've watched at Rodney Parade against the Ospreys and the Blues, I thought he really came into his own. He is one of the youngsters who has a good chance of being in the squad, and so hopefully that gives a good indication of how we want to play."

Injuries look set to sideline the likes of fullback Lee Byrne (knee) and lock Bradley Davies (chest) from Wales' final game before World Cup warm-up fixtures in August against England (twice) and Argentina. And there is further selection quandaries concerning the headline-grabbing duo of Gavin Henson and Andy Powell.

Henson was this week reinstated by French club Toulon after they suspended him following a nightclub incident with team-mates after a Top 14 victory over Toulouse last month. Henson, who last played for Wales more than two years ago, features in Toulon's 26-man squad for their crunch league clash against Montpellier on Saturday. Powell, meanwhile, left Aviva Premiership club Wasps by mutual consent yesterday. He had been suspended by them while they investigated a brawl involving the 29-year-old in a London pub.

Gatland, whose World Cup preparations will also include two training camps in Poland during July, added, "We have four or five players not available for the Barbarians game with injuries, but there are some youngsters playing really well at the moment. I know we have been criticised for being conservative, but that's definitely not the way we like to play and like to coach.

"I can tell you now we encourage the players to go out there and play, to make the right decision, to play heads-up rugby. The message will be that if you think the opportunity is on to run the ball from behind your own goal-line because there is a three-man overlap, then go for it.

"For that Barbarians game in particular, we want to go out there and play some rugby. We want the players to be looking at all the options. That means potentially moving the ball from inside your own 22 from kick-off, looking to counter-attack a bit more, keep the ball alive, some offloads, take some risks and not be too conservative.

"For us, it's an opportunity with this game and the three matches ahead of the World Cup to look at some combinations, but I think this run of fixtures gives us a chance to take some risks as well."

In an interview with BBC Radio Wales last night, Gatland also spoke about standards of behaviour that are expected within the Wales squad. "For us, it is just about working with the players and educating these young men that are filled with testosterone that it's about learning from situations and trying to not put themselves in situations.

"We've all been to a bar before and walked through the door and gone, 'This is not great, let's finish our beer and get out of here'. There has been an altercation with Gavin with some team-mates in France, and Andy at Wasps.

"The last two campaigns, as a squad, after internationals the players haven't gone out at all. We are trying to reduce those potential situations. We have got 90-95% of the squad who are fantastic and never get themselves into situations and there are no issues at all.

"We have got one or two individuals we are working with closely. I know a couple of the players in the squad have identified there are a couple of problems they may have or a couple of issues, and they are trying to get some advice and some help.

"I think that is a responsible approach, and we have got to keep working with them. You have got to be careful. You can't rule with an iron fist because you are going to end up, and we have all seen and heard of situations, where you get groups sneaking off and going quietly behind everyone's back.

"We don't want that to happen. We want them to be working with us, training hard and performing well, but also being responsible and being able to go out quietly and enjoy themselves."

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