8:08am Friday 7th February 2014
WALES boss Warren Gatland didn't want to talk Brian O'Driscoll this week but Taulupe Faletau has no such problems – the number eight has pinpointed the Ireland great as holding the key to the battle at the breakdown.
While many are keen to revisit the decision to drop the 35-year-old from the third and final Lions Test there is only one subject that is on number eight Faletau's mind.
O'Driscoll has a wealth of experience, is a balanced runner, canny kicker and smart distributer but it's his contact area prowess that makes him stand out from the rest of the world's best centres.
Faletau won three penalties at the breakdown against Italy last weekend but knows he will have his work cut out against a quality Irish back row that is turned into a quartet by the Leinster legend.
"O'Driscoll is like an openside flanker," said the 23-year-old about his fellow Lion. "He is brilliant at the breakdown and wins so many turnovers.
"It is just one of the great things that he does – he just gets straight in over the ball and good luck shifting him when he does.
"The breakdown is going to be crucial tomorrow and hopefully we have plenty of players that can thrive there."
While O'Driscoll was dropped from the third Test, Faletau was brought in at the expense of his opposite number tomorrow.
The Dragons back row forward went up against a world class operator in Sergio Parisse last weekend and puts Jamie Heaslip in the same bracket.
"He is another top number eight – there are a lot of them in this tournament – and it's another chance to learn from one of the best in the world," said Faletau.
"We shared a room a few times in Australia and he helped me a lot in training. He is the same as Parisse in that he has got a great allround game; he carries well, defends well and is a captain who leads by example."
The Faletau-Heaslip showdown is just one of a number of fascinating individual battles at the Aviva Stadium and with Grand Slam and Triple Crown hopes on the line it promises to be a terrific occasion.
"It's always great to be a part of playing for Wales in big games and out in Dublin will be special," said Faletau.
"It's a big game that will go a long way towards deciding our tournament. It's always tough against Ireland but a good win would keep us right in contention for the Championship."
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