No. 8 Toby Faletau hands lift to Welsh game
WALES No. 8 Toby Faletau has spoken for the first time about his regional future, insisting he is staying with the Dragons for at least another season.
Speculation has mounted in recent weeks that the strong-running back-rower is to follow fellow Grand Slam winner Dan Lydiate out of Rodney Parade at the end of the campaign.
Faletau does have another year on his contract with the Men of Gwent, but the Dragons management could cash in on one of Wales's stars of the 2011 World Cup if they allowed him to leave in the summer.
A number of clubs in France and England are thought to be interested in the Tongan-born 22-year-old, but speaking ahead of Saturday's Six Nations clash with Italy in Rome, Faletau insists the rumours are untrue.
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"I've still got another year at the Dragons so I'm not sure where that has come from," he said.
"I'm still there next season. I've got another year left."
Asked whether he would leave Wales, Faletau added: "I'm not sure. There's a lot of time between now and the end of my contract.
"I'm not sure what my options are. The Welsh boys in France say it is great out there. Everyone is different I guess.
"I feel as if I owe the Dragons a huge amount. They have helped me a lot. They gave me the chance that brought me here (with Wales)."
Faletau will be part of an unchanged Wales starting XV at the Stadio Olimpico with interim coach Rob Howley confirming his match-day 23 at yesterday's official team announcement at the Vale of Glamorgan Hotel.
As expected, Sam Warburton, Wales's captain for this tournament, has recovered from his shoulder problem and comes onto the bench in place of Aaron Shingler of the Scarlets, while Ospreys skipper Alun Wyn Jones will also take his place among the replacements after proving his fitness with two outings in the Pro12.
Jones last played for Wales against Argentina in the opening Test of the autumn — a match that saw him suffer a serious shoulder injury that required surgery and a 12-week lay-off.
As for Italy, they are awaiting the verdict on their skipper and talismanic No. 8 Sergio Parisse, who faces a French league disciplinary hearing today following his sending off for abusing a referee while playing for Stade Francais in the Top14 last weekend.
"I'm not sure of the case or what he has done or not, but we are preparing for him playing," said Faletau.
"He's a great player. He carries well and leads well too so he's great for their team. He is regarded as one of the best No. 8s in the world. It would be great to run up against him."