Saturday 16 December 2017

Faletau lacks 'mongrel edge' to hurt Kiwis - Zinzan

Faletau is one of 12 Welshman included in Warren Gatland’s 41-strong party for the 10-match tour of New Zealand in June and July. Photo credit: David Davies/PA Wire
Faletau is one of 12 Welshman included in Warren Gatland’s 41-strong party for the 10-match tour of New Zealand in June and July. Photo credit: David Davies/PA Wire

Nigel Whittaker

New Zealand great Zinzan Brooke has questioned the inclusion of Wales No 8 Taulupe Faletau in the Lions squad, saying the second-time tourist lacks the "mongrel" edge required to take on the All Blacks.

Faletau, who started the deciding third Test on the 2013 Lions tour of Australia, is one of 12 Welshman included in Warren Gatland's 41-strong party for the 10-match tour of New Zealand in June and July.

Brooke, who played in all three Tests against the 1993 Lions, said he thought Lions would potentially have a "very strong team" but that Faletau might struggle against the world champions.

"Someone who I do have reservations about is Welsh loose-forward Taulupe Faletau," the legendary No 8 said.

"It's not that he isn't a good player, he just isn't a key player. He's one of these guys that is pretty much good at everything, but doesn't have that mongrel edge.

"Quick lesson for anyone playing the All Blacks - if you don't have that mongrel edge, you get found out pretty quickly against the best team in the world."

Brooke said he was also surprised by the selection of 24-year-old England tighthead prop Kyle Sinckler, who has played eight Tests off the bench since his debut in November.

"He's still relatively young and hasn't actually started a test for England yet," Brooke added.

"Still, Warren Gatland has seen something in him and that's something supporters will have to be open to when the tour gets underway."

The Lions, who will be looking for only a second series victory in New Zealand after 1971, open the tour against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians in Whangarei on June 3.

Meanwhile, New Zealand are keeping their fingers crossed that captain Kieran Read will be fit to play against the Lions after he fractured a thumb last Saturday and was forced to undergo surgery.

The No 8, who sustained the fracture to the base of his right thumb in Canterbury Crusaders' 48-21 victory over South Africa's Cheetahs, is likely to be sidelined for around six weeks. The first Test will be played in Auckland on June 24.

Read had surgery on his right wrist during the off-season and only returned to Super Rugby against Japan's Sunwolves on April 14. He would have been looking forward to a few more outings with the Crusaders, including the tour match against the Lions on June 10, before joining up with the All Blacks squad.

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