Faletau ready for Wales opener after tireless club display

Taulupe Faletau reassured Wales fans he will be fit and raring to go for the opening game of the Guinness Six Nations after helping Bath to victory over Leicester Tigers.

Taulupe Faletau reassured Wales fans he will be fit and raring to go for the opening game of the Guinness Six Nations after helping Bath to victory over Leicester Tigers.

The No.8 was making only his third start for his club side in 13 months having been sidelined with two broken arms and a fractured collarbone as he missed the World Cup.

Recalled to the Wales squad for the 2020 Championship by Wayne Pivac, all eyes were on the 29-year-old as he took his place at the back of Bath’s scrum against Leicester.

And despite coming off four minutes from the end after a heavy challenge, Faletau insisted he will be good to go when the defending champions welcome Italy to Cardiff next Saturday.

“It is nothing too serious and I should be able to report back to Wales next week,” Faletau told media after the game. “Maybe I shouldn’t run into two blokes next time.”

Pivac will certainly hope to have Faletau at his disposal against the Azzurri after his impressive contribution to Bath’s narrow 13-10 Premiership win over Tigers at The Rec.

He made 20 tackles and 13 yards from 12 carries during his time on the field and was singled out for praise by Bath’s director of rugby Stuart Hooper following his tiresome display.

“Toby is fine, he had a couple of bumps and bruises,” he said. “He was a bit beaten up but he got up and went again. He had literally put his body on the line for 80 minutes so he was exhausted.

“It is the measure of the man [that he re-joined the defensive line after the knock], he wants to do well for the team. Today was brilliant for him, to get out there and get another game under his belt.”

Nathan Hughes showed Eddie Jones what he is missing as the No.8 produced a rampaging display to help Bristol Bears claim bragging rights over West Country rivals Gloucester Rugby.

The 28-year-old missed out on Jones’ 34-man squad but was at the heart of his club side’s 34-16 win as the hosts ended their winless run in the Premiership, stretching back to November.

Callum Sheedy slotted five penalties to Owen Williams’ three in the first half to give Bristol a 15-9 advantage at the break before the tries came raining down after the restart.

Henry Purdy, Luke Morahan and Mat Protheroe all scored for the Bears before Freddie Clarke ran in a consolation for Gloucester as the hosts kept Wales winger Louis Rees-Zammit quiet.

Elsewhere, Sam Simmonds was on the scoresheet again for Exeter Chiefs but could not prevent the league leaders from slipping to a 22-19 defeat against Sale Sharks.

Chris Ashton was among the scorers for the visitors at Sandy Park before Simmonds and Tom O’Flaherty crossed in the final quarter to cut the deficit and keep Sale on their toes.

Recalled Scotland fly-half Duncan Weir was also in action as his Worcester Warriors side slipped up against Wasps in the Midlands derby, losing 30-26 in a thriller at Sixways.

Weir ended the game with an impressive 16-point individual haul, having been added to Gregor Townsend’s squad in place of Finn Russell, but his effort ultimately proved in vain.

Over in France, Maxime Machenaud kicked a couple of conversions and a penalty as Racing 92 romped to a 27-0 victory against Castres in the Top 14.

The scrum-half, who has 38 France caps to his name, missed out on Fabien Galthié’s 42-man squad for the 2020 Guinness Six Nations as the new head coach favoured youth.

But the 31-year-old played an integral role for his club side as they overcame Castres, who were reduced to 14 men when Marc-Antoine Rallier saw red just after the restart.

Meanwhile, Lyon maintained their title challenge by seeing off Toulon 27-12 as Xavier Mignot, Rudi Wulf and Toby Arnold crossed for the hosts, with Jonathan Wisniewski kicking 12 points.

Brive were also victorious against Pau, winning 33-26 after staging a late fightback, while La Rochelle prevailed 35-30 against Montpellier as Jules Plisson finished with a 15-point haul.