Lion Faletau to face challenge from Baker

British & Irish Lion Taulupe Faletau has been warned he faces competition for his Wales shirt from emerging No.8 Dan Baker. [more]

Lion Faletau to face challenge from Baker

British & Irish Lion Taulupe Faletau has been warned he faces competition for his Wales shirt from emerging No.8 Dan Baker.

Faletau has been Warren Gatland’s first choice at No.8 for Wales when fit and the coach also called up the 23-year-old to his Lions squad last summer.

The Newport Gwent Dragons back row made seven appearances in all down under, starting the final Test against Australia as the Lions claimed a historic 2-1 series victory.

However, after giving Leinster No.8 and fellow Lion Jamie Heaslip a run for his money last weekend, Baker, 21, is being talked up as a rival for Faletau’s international spot. 

“He's mesmeric,” said Ospreys assistant coach Gruff Rees.

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“Over the past 12 months he's developed into someone with an aptitude for the professional game, who knows the demands.

“He can beat someone in a metre of space and after a nervous start against Leinster he had a couple of little moments which excite us for the future.

“Based on his form and the way he’s earning his spurs at regional level, I wouldn’t begrudge him earning a shirt and trying to push Toby Faletau for the next few years.”

Should Gatland wish he may well get the chance to run the rule over the pair before deciding on his squad for the summer tour of South Africa when they meet at the Millennium Stadium for Sunday’s match between Ospreys and the Dragons.

However Baker, who made his international debut last year, insists he has nothing but respect for Faletau.

“He is a class player,” said Baker. “South Africa is always on the back of your mind but if I don't perform for the Ospreys I won't be going anywhere.”

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