Justin Tipuric wants to help Taulupe Faletau ‘work his magic’ against England

Andrew Baldock, PA Rugby Union Correspondent
·3-min read

Justin Tipuric hopes he can help fellow Wales back-row warrior Taulupe Faletau “work his magic” in Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash against England.

The pair have proved almost inseparable in rugby terms since making their Wales debuts just 11 weeks apart, 10 years ago.

Number eight Faletau has 83 caps, with Tipuric only one Wales appearance behind him, and they are both British and Irish Lions Test players.

Wales v Italy – NatWest 6 Nations – Principality Stadium
Wales number eight Taulupe Faletau (David Davies/PA)

Victory for Wales over their fierce rivals in Cardiff this weekend would secure a Six Nations Triple Crown and strengthen their title hopes.

Tipuric and Faletau are set to line up in possibly an unchanged Wales pack following success against Scotland, although Josh Navidi could join the back-row mix.

Switches are expected behind the scrum, though, led by Jonathan Davies seemingly set to partner George North in midfield after recovering from an ankle injury.

North, 28, is poised to become the youngest player in Test rugby history to win 100 caps for his country, while wing Josh Adams could be back after completing a two-match ban for breaching coronavirus protocols, and scrum-half Kieran Hardy might edge out Gareth Davies.

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The back-row battle will be key to Saturday’s outcome, especially Tipuric’s contest with England openside Tom Curry and Faletau tackling rampaging England number eight Billy Vunipola.

“He is world class,” Tipuric said of Faletau.

“It’s just a bit of fun when we are out there. He has had a tough time with injuries, but it shows the tough character he is to keep on fighting.

“Those injuries he had were nasty ones, too, but it never seemed to knock him down. Some people would probably go into their shell, go a bit mad with themselves, where he is a quiet guy that keeps getting on with it and working hard.

“He is the type of player that knows rugby inside out, and if you stand still you get left behind. That’s him – he is always working on things and trying to make himself better in some sort of way.

“When you have got someone like that on the side of you, it’s about giving him the ball in space, letting him work his magic. He makes everyone else look good then.”

Although Vunipola has been criticised in some quarters for his performances during England’s opening Six Nations games against Scotland and Italy, Tipuric has no doubt what the Saracens powerhouse brings.

“I think he is class,” Tipuric added. “He is tough to tackle, he’s a big man and works hard.

“There is a lot of stuff he does defensively that people don’t see, making it difficult to gain momentum.

RUGBYU England
RUGBYU England

“He gets their team on the front-foot, making the hard yards which make England tick.”

Wales beat Ireland and Scotland – both opposition teams had a player sent off – without hitting top gear.

But the first major trophy of Pivac’s reign is now in sight, ahead of away games against Italy and France next month.

“Everyone is pretty level-headed,” Tipuric said. “We haven’t been playing at the top of our game.

“We are still winning games, which shows we are doing something right, but we know we are not the perfect team.

“England are a world-class team, they do the basics really well and they know how to win games of rugby, so we know it’s going to be a tough game.”