Taulupe Faletau: Breakdown battle with Springboks will be brutal for Wales' new-look back row

TAULUPE Faletau expects a brutal breakdown battle with South Africa when Wales take on the Springboks without their two frontline opensides.

The Newport Gwent Dragons ace will have to be at his best at the contact area in the absence of skipper Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric, who are both sidelined by shoulder injuries.

Head coach Warren Gatland is considering going up against the supremely physical Boks next month with a beefed-up but openside-less back row.

Blindside Dan Lydiate is tipped to deputise for his absent Lions colleagues and that would lead to athletic number eight Faletau having to do his share of scavenging.

The 23-year-old has played one Test at openside – at the 2011 World Cup – and believes the South Africans' brutal forward play presents a unique challenge when the ball is on the floor.

"I've played seven once against Australia (at the 2011 World Cup)," said Faletau. "It was different, I was up against David Pocock and I got a bit found out at the breakdown to be honest.

"South Africa don't really have players like him, they go for a different type of back row but they are still effective in what they do."

Before heading to South Africa Faletau will battle with Dan Baker at the Wales trial match, the former in the red of the probables and the latter in the white of the possibles.

The pair locked horns at the Millennium Stadium last month when Newport Gwent Dragons were edged out by the Ospreys and it will be something of a shock if both are not on the plane.

Faletau has been Warren Gatland's number eight since the 2011 World Cup and only injury will prevent him lining up against the Springboks.

But he is welcoming the challenge of 21-year-old Baker, who won two caps against Japan last summer and caught the eye with several barnstorming performances for his region at the tail end of the RaboDirect Pro12 campaign.

"Dan has been superb," said the Lions star. "He has really come on this season and will only get better. He has been carrying well and has definitely been a find for Wales.

"It's always good to have competition and be kept on your toes but it's also useful to work together and I can learn from what he does well for the Ospreys."

Faletau believes the hit-out is much-needed for the members of the Wales team whose last action was on the final day of the RaboDirect Pro12 regular season on Saturday, May 10.

"The trial is something different, it will be good for all the boys and everyone will have to give their all so that they put their hand up for selection," said the back rower.

"The coaches were worried about us having too much time off so this fills that and South Africa will be brutal – they are one of the most physical teams out there and it will be demanding on the body."

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