Taulupe Faletau: Wales star compared to Messi and Federer set for Cardiff return

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Cardiff and Wales number eight Taulupe Faletau is set to return to action after a six-month injury lay-off.

Faletau, 33, suffered a broken arm in Wales’ World Cup victory against Georgia in Nantes in October 2023 before missing this year’s Six Nations with a calf injury.

The British and Irish Lions Test star has since returned to Cardiff training.

Faletau is available for the United Rugby Championship (URC) trip to face Ulster on Friday night.

Cardiff head coach Matt Sherratt said Faletau was a “Rolls Royce” of a player and likened him to sporting greats Roger Federer and Lionel Messi.

The number eight is yet to make a Cardiff appearance this season after playing 14 games in his opening campaign at the Arms Park.

“I hope [he will be involved against Ulster],” said Sherratt.

“We have one training session left but Toby will be in and around it this week which is brilliant. He is a Rolls-Royce, he is out there running around and gets the best out of players.”

Faletau, who has played 104 times for Wales, returns to action with the summer tour to Australia on the horizon.

Head coach Warren Gatland has lost senior figures in Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, George North, Dan Biggar, Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb to international retirement in the last 12 months.

In Faletau’s absence, Cardiff back-row duo Alex Mann and Mackenzie Martin have been capped by Wales, while Aaron Wainwright has filled the national number eight role.

“It is brilliant for him to be back for Toby and the rest of the group,” added Sherratt.

“It’s credit to him because it’s been a long route back and he has had to show character and resilience.

“He does not say a huge amount but he seems to have kept the love of playing rugby.

“I am sure he has found it hard. He knows what he wants, he is a good professional and he knows his body and mind, so you kind of let him do his thing.”

Sherratt believes Faletau is one of the best players to represent Wales.

“The sign of any good player in sport when you watch people like a Roger Federer or a Lionel Messi, they have time on the ball,” he said.

“I am putting Toby in this category, and he would hate this, but he has time on the ball and everything he does looks comfortable.

“He has that rare commodity that I can only dream of that the game seems to go in slow motion for him.”

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