FIT-AGAIN Taulupe Faletau remains the best number eight in the world and should be Wayne Pivac's first pick in the Wales back row, believes Andrew Coombs.

The Pivac era begins with the Six Nations opener against Italy at Principality Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 2.15pm).

The new head coach has inherited Warren Gatland's welcome selection quandary in the back row after plumping for six specialists in his squad – Faletau, Dragons duo Aaron Wainwright and Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi and Aaron Shingler.

Pivac could name any trio at 11am tomorrow and it would be formidable but former Wales forward Coombs believes fit-again Faletau, his former Dragons teammate, has to feature.

The 29-year-old number eight's last Test was against France in the 2018 tournament because of a succession of injuries, but the Bath forward remains a class act.

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"Having Toby back is massive and he picks himself," said Coombs, who won 10 caps and was a member of the Six Nations title-winning squad in 2013.

"Toby has had a tough time of it over at Bath (with injury) but is so talented – I don't think that anybody comes close to him in that back row.

"If he is fully fit and looks at his best in training then I think that you have to pick him, but it's a struggle to pick your three because there is so much quality.

"It will be a tough call for Wayne but Toby is the best number eight in the world on his day."

Faletau's inclusion would leave number eight Ross Moriarty in peril despite the Lions tourist's excellent recent form for the Dragons.

"Ross is a great player in his own right, he is physical and his defence work is brilliant, but I don't think he offers the same ball carrying as Toby," said Coombs.

"Ross carries a lot but doesn't beat defenders like Toby, who is strong and can get through with his power but also has the footwork, for me he is the number one back row forward in Wales.

"I am a massive Aaron Wainwright fan but it's so difficult because there is also Josh Navidi and Justin Tipuric, who are real leaders."

The battle for starts in the back row is mirrored in the second row with Jake Ball, Cory Hill, Adam Beard, Will Rowlands and Seb Davies battling to be Alun Wyn Jones' partner.

Coombs, who could never be accused of being a shrinking violet, believes that could lead to training ground confrontation.

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"Jake Ball has been in great form for the Scarlets while Cory turned into a bit of a Welsh legend and is back after injury," he said.

"I think it is going to be feisty in training over the Six Nations because these guys won't hold back. They will go in and compete for those jerseys as though their lives depend on it."

Pivac has raised the possibility of Dragons forward Hill (pictured above) covering both lock and back row, a job that Coombs filled in his playing days.

"He could probably play there but you'd have to be some player to break into Wales' back row," said Coombs, who moved forward from number eight/blindside because of injuries.

"I think Pivac is looking for size and that's why he has brough Will Rowlands in.

"He wants that lock who is 6ft 8ins and 20st, that puts pressure on Cory because as much as he can get better as a player, he can't stretch himself."