Weekend wrap: Faletau relishes return as French young guns impress

Taulupe Faletau was grateful for the support he has received as he made his return to action for Bath this weekend.

Taulupe Faletau was grateful for the support he has received as he made his return to action for Bath this weekend.

The Wales No.8 has had a tough time of it with injuries over the past couple of seasons, and missed the World Cup in Japan.

But he came through the 80 minutes at the Rec in Bath’s 16-14 win over Sale to put his hand up for a place in Wayne Pivac’s Wales squad for the 2020 Guinness Six Nations.

Faletau said: “It was tough having 80 minutes and I’m glad to come through it without any trouble.

“When you come back after awhile out you want to enjoy it and I certainly did.

“There’s definitely a lot of room for improvement, like there always is, personally and as a team. We will be going back to the drawing board on Monday.

“(My family are) a huge part of it. They support me mentally more than anything to keep going and show there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

“When you have had a couple of years like I have just going from game to game without really enjoying it, whatever games I do play now I will definitely enjoy.”

A new French dawn

Elsewhere this weekend Fabien Galthié was on hand to watch a thrilling encounter between Montpellier and Stade Français, which eventually ended as a 20-20 draw.

Gaël Fickou scored one try and set up another for the visitors, while another potential candidate for France’s midfield in February, Under-20s world champion captain, Arthur Vincent also crossed for a fine individual effort.

Pierre-Louis Barassi, the 21-year-old Lyon centre who made his Test debut at the World Cup, did his own chances no harm with a stellar display against Bayonne.

And on Sunday Matthieu Jalibert continued to push his cause for a return to the Test scene as he helped Bordeaux-Bègles back to the top of the table with two crucial interventions to set up Santiago Cordero tries in a win at Pau.

Graham doubles up

In Scotland Edinburgh bounced back from last week’s loss at Glasgow Warriors by getting the better of their domestic rivals at BT Murrayfield.

Darcy Graham was the star of the show, scoring once in each half in the 29-19 success.

If the first try was more about Bill Mata’s offloading, the second was all on the winger’s pace as he was put away down the right and turned on the afterburners to seal the win.

Gregor Townsend is not short of options in the back three, even with Tommy Seymour’s international retirement, but Graham is making himself very difficult to overlook.

Townsend will also have been keeping an eye on Finn Russell who scored one try and set up another for Racing 92 in a big win away at Brive.

Ton up for England trio

The game of the weekend in England saw champions Saracens travel to last season’s runners-up Exeter Chiefs, with home pair Jack Nowell and Luke Cowan-Dickie making their hundredth appearance for the Devon club.

Billy Vunipola marked a century of his own, 100 league appearances, but it was the Exeter duo who were celebrating come the final whistle with a 14-7 success.

Both Nowell and Cowan-Dickie chipped in with crucial turnovers as the Exeter defence earned them the win that puts them back to the top of the Premiership.

Rees-Zammit keeps on rolling

On Saturday young Wales winger Louis Rees-Zammit built on his remarkable season as he scored a hat-trick in Gloucester’s defeat to Northampton Saints.

The 18-year-old might be a long shot to be included in the Championship, but his eight tries in all competitions will certainly have him in Pivac’s thoughts as he prepares to name his squad.