Fears that Taulupe Faletau might not make it back it in time for Wales’ 2020 defence of its Six Nations title have been allayed by his Bath inclusion this weekend for the first time in nearly twelve months.
The back row hasn’t featured for club or country since a Champions Cup fixture last January versus Wasps. Having only returned for that game from a right forearm break, Faletau broke it again and was ruled out of the Six Nations and the run-in to Bath’s season.
He was then ruled out of the World Cup with Wales after breaking his collarbone during pre-season training with the Welsh, but he is now finally back in the mix for his Gallagher Premiership club following a considerable lay-off that amounts to one single match played in 14 months.
There were concerns about how his rehabilitation was going as recently as the start of December, as Bath boss Stuart Hooper told local media there was yet no definitive timeframe set for the back row’s return.
“He is there or thereabouts,” he told Somerset Live. “We will start to integrate him and hopefully we will have him back into the rugby programme sooner rather than later but there is still no determined time frame for his return.”
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RugbyPass went behind the scenes with the Barbarians before their recent match with Wales
Faletau is one of two changes for Bath to the side that beat London Irish 38-10 at the Madejski Stadium last Sunday as World Cup winner Francois Louw also returns for the round seven tie on Saturday versus fourth-placed Sale at the Rec.
Beno Obano, Tom Dunn and Will Stuart maintain their spot in the front row, with Josh McNally and Elliott Stooke again starting at lock. Tom Ellis retains his spot in the back row with Louw replacing Sam Underhill and Faletau coming in for Josh Bayliss.
— #RugbyBath (@RugbyBath) November 14, 2019
The backline that scored four of the six tries last weekend are unchanged, with Will Chudley and Rhys Priestland commanding the nine and ten channels. Anthony Watson and Semesa Rokoduguni will occupy the wide passages with Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Joseph in midfield, whilst Tom Homer props up the back three.
Sale boss Steve Diamond has made just one change to his starting XV, with Simon Hammersley the only omission from the Sharks side that beat Northampton last weekend. The full-back is replaced by Denny Solomona due to injury. Solomona takes the No14 shirt with Chris Ashton moving to full-back.
BATH: 15. Tom Homer; 14. Semesa Rokoduguni, 13. Jonathan Joseph, 12. Jamie Roberts 11. Anthony Watson, 10. Rhys Priestland, 9. Will Chudley; 1. Beno Obano, 2. Tom Dunn, 3. Will Stuart, 4. Josh McNally, 5. Elliott Stooke, 6. Tom Ellis, 7. Francois Louw (capt), 8. Taulupe Faletau. Reps: 16. Jack Walker, 17. Lewis Boyce, 18. Christian Judge, 19. Matt Garvey, 20. Josh Bayliss, 21. Chris Cook, 22. Freddie Burns, 23. Aled Brew.
SALE: 15. Chris Ashton; 14. Denny Solomona, 13. Sam James, 12. Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11. Byron McGuigan; 10. Robert du Preez, 9. Faf De Klerk; 1. Coenie Oosthuizen, 2. Akker van der Merwe, 3. Will-Griff John, 4. Bryn Evans, 5. James Phillips, 6. Jono Ross (capt), 7. Tom Curry, 8. Daniel du Preez. Reps: 16. Rob Webber, 17. Ross Harrison, 18. Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19. Jean-Luc du Preez, 20. Ben Curry, 21. Will Cliff, 22. AJ MacGinty, 23. Marland Yarde.
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