TAULUPE Faletau is irreplaceable so it’s just as well that Ross Moriarty, a man who would bristle as the suggestion of being a deputy, is the one charged with replacing the number eight.

That the loss of Faletau to injury isn’t terminal to Wales’ World Cup hopes shows the strides that have been made in recent years.

They will cope in Japan, just as they have had to over the past couple of years.

The Pontypool-raised back rower’s broken collarbone is, however, a massive blow to the bid to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy aloft in Yokohama.

I wrote in mid-July that the return of Faletau transforms the Six Nations champions and that his presence in the squad alongside Moriarty, Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric and Aaron Wainwright would give Wales an even better shot at winning the tournament.

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Perhaps it is only when Warren Gatland’s men get to the knockout stages and lock horns with the big beasts that his absence will be truly felt.

Faletau is a classy operator with the desire to also do the dirty work; he is a superstar, the best Dragons I have ever seen by a country mile and up there with the greatest forwards I have had the pleasure to watch in the flesh.

Losing such a talent from the 31-strong squad weakens Wales, but at least they have had practice playing without him.

The key is doing things differently and adapting – there is no point in the chosen number eight being a Faletau tribute act.

The character in the song ‘Bad Cover Version’ by Pulp jibes that their former partner’s current relationship is not up to scratch: “she's trying to replace me, but it'll never work”.

“All the sad imitations that got it so wrong,” sings Jarvis Cocker.

“It's like a later Tom and Jerry when the two of them could talk,like the Stones since the eighties, like the last days of Southfork, like Planet of the Apes on TV, the second side of 'Til the Band Comes In, like an own-brand box of cornflakes, he's going to let you down my friend.”

Thankfully ‘Wales without Taulupe’ won’t make it onto Cocker’s list, nor has Moriarty let anyone down.

When Faletau last played Test rugby, against France in the 2017 Six Nations, Gatland’s men recorded their second win on the streak. That run has since stretched to 14 and Moriarty has featured in 11 of them.

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Since last summer he has missed just one Test – Tonga, when an unused replacement last autumn – and played 720 minutes of a possible 960.

I’ve previously questioned whether the Dragons would have been better served spending his hefty salary elsewhere – the answer is yes, and that’s no comment on Moriarty’s quality – but that decision was made at the end of 2017.

As it happens Moriarty had a pretty steady first season in regional rugby; perhaps he didn’t put in the barnstorming performances that Faletau often did but he grafted for a struggling side.

He played 12 games (859 minutes) and never shirked, even when carrying a few knocks.

The only disappointment was his absence over the festive period because of a broken jaw but he played about as much as you could expect from a Test regular (hence his signing being a questionable use of a small budget).

But Moriarty had a super overall 2018/19 in which he was a leading figure in a perfect autumn and a Six Nations clean sweep.

His partnership with Navidi and Tipuric is well-balanced and the number eight relishes getting stuck in, hitting hard, carrying honestly and doing plenty of donkeywork.

Current Dragon Moriarty isn’t trying to be the same sort of player as Dragons legend Faletau, but who could be?

Moriarty is abrasive, confrontational and tough; he is his own man, and that is a strength when it comes to replacing an all-time great.

Some sportsmen are blessed with incredibly strong mindsets and back their own talent. I would imagine that Moriarty respects Faletau hugely, but he won’t feel inferior to his fellow 2017 Lions tourist or daunted by the task.

That is a strength, as is the fact that the 25-year-old isn’t trying to be Toby, nor is he being asked to fulfil the same roles.

The loss of Faletau, who produced remarkable moments with such regularity that you were no longer surprised by them, has necessitated a bit of tinkering but his absence has led to Moriarty becoming a leading figure.

Four years ago he made his Test debut in the World Cup warm-up against Ireland and came off the bench against Italy in the game known for Rhys Webb and Leigh Halfpenny’s injury despair.

Gatland left Moriarty out of his original squad for England 2015 only to call him up when wing Eli Walker suffered a hamstring injury.

There is no danger of him missing out on Gatland’s 31 this time on Sunday, September 1 and his presence will ensure Wales are still genuine contenders despite the loss of a world-class number eight.

That is down to Moriarty being his own man and Wales playing to his strengths.