WALES number eight Taulupe Faletau has been backed to earn a place on a second successive British and Irish Lions tour after getting “back in the groove”, says his Bath boss Todd Blackadder.
The 26-year-old from Pontypool has endured a frustrating first season in the Aviva Premiership since his move from Newport Gwent Dragons.
He has been troubled by knee injuries, meaning that he has played just seven times for the men from the Rec while he made just one Test appearance in November and was back-up to Ross Moriarty in the Six Nations.
However, Faletau showed signs of being back to his best with a two-try performance when man of the match in Bath’s European Challenge Cup quarter-final win against Brive last weekend.
He will be to the fore against Leicester at Twickenham on Saturday and another strong showing would be a step towards making the cut for the Lions’ tour to New Zealand.
Faletau, who started the series clinching third Test win against Australia four years ago, has childhood friend Billy Vunipola, Irish legend Jamie Heaslip and Moriarty as rivals but former All Black Blackadder expects his man to be on the plan.
“I think he’s one of the best number eights in the world,” the Bath director of rugby said to BBC Five Live. “I think he will be a Lion, I really do.
“Warren Gatland knows him really well and knows what he is capable of. You can feel the switch has been flicked and we are only going to see fantastic rugby from him.”
“I think he has had a tough year to be honest,” Blackadder continued. “Things haven’t quite gone his way. When he did play for us we weren’t exactly firing, and then him getting his injury and not getting a lot of time for Wales.
“But I thought there was a mindset shift last week. He looked like he was back in the groove.
“We are only going to see fantastic rugby from him. He’s only getting better. Last week (against Brive) was just an appetiser of what he is capable of, and I thought he was pretty special.”
The Lions squad is named by Gatland on Wednesday, April 19.