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New name, but Wales No 8 Faletau remains as strong as ever

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: February 03, 2014

Taulupe Faletau takes on Alessandro Zanni and Mauro Bergamasco.

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SPORTING rebrands only work if the core product remains as strong as ever, and on that front the signs were encouraging at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

An email from the Welsh Rugby Union before the Wales v Italy game indicated that Toby Faletau wanted to be known by his birth name of Taulupe Faletau from here on in.

It doesn't sound an unreasonable request but the WRU later clarified the position by saying he didn't mind people calling him Toby to his face but in print he preferred Taulupe.

When asked by the press how he should be addressed during interviews, the man himself said: "Toby is fine."

Really, he is so easy going it is hard to imagine him ever bothering to give the issue a second thought, but that's another matter.

He actually had a typically strong game in the Six Nations opener against Italy, forcing three turnover penalties with expert work at the breakdown.

Call him what you will, but never, ever suggest he is less than an excellent rugby player.

Anyway, the world will now have to get used to Taulupe, just as they are having to get up to speed on Jessica Ennis-Hill instead of plain old Jessica Ennis.

Chris Evert morphed into Chris Evert-Lloyd, before a reversion to her original moniker and then a brief dalliance with the idea of releasing Chris Evert-Mill on the world.

At that point most of us gave up, including, one suspects, Dan Maskell, who also had to contend with Evonne Goolagong becoming Mrs Cawley.

Pele kicked off as Edson Arantes Do Nascimento, Muhammad Ali was Cassius Clay, while Jimmy White briefly resold himself as Jimmy Brown after striking a deal with sauce makers.

Whatever, it was business as usual on the pitch for Faletau, who acquitted himself well against the magnificent Sergio Parisse.

"It's always tough going against him," said Faletau.

"He always has a good game and nothing changed on that front on Saturday."

If Wales's team performance wasn't the best in their 23-15 triumph, they at least started their Six Nations title defence with a win but will hope to improve as the tournament unfolds.

Italy were hugely combative, but Ireland will be as well this weekend and Faletau acknowledged Wales will need to up their game.

"We need a significant improvement to challenge Ireland," he said.

"Dublin is a tough place to win and we need to get better in a number of areas but I'm sure we will be.

"We're just glad to have got the result against Italy.

"They made things difficult and were in the game until the end.

"But the important thing was to start with a win.

"Dan Lydiate put in a lot of tackles, and Justin Tipuric showed up around the field.

"We can build now.

"We won in Ireland two years ago but it's a different challenge this term and it is up to us to be ready for it."

Faletau will be a key player at the Aviva Stadium.

He has become indispensable to Wales with his industry, footballing skill and rock-solid consistency.

However he wants to be referred to, he will remain one of the first names on Warren Gatland's team-sheet.

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