British and Irish Lions 2017: Taulupe Faletau happy to take fatherly advice

Taulupe Faletau
Wales number eight Taulupe Faletau is on his second Lions tour

Taulupe Faletau staked an early claim for the British and Irish Lions Test number eight shirt in a stuttering first match of their New Zealand tour.

Warren Gatland's side held off New Zealand Provincial Barbarians for a 13-7 win on Saturday in Whangarei.

But Faletau said the only opinion he takes any notice of outside the camp is from his father, Kuli.

"If I were to have criticism from my dad, then I would definitely listen to that," said Wales back-row Faletau.

"That can really keep me grounded. He's not going to shy away from saying what he thinks and telling the truth.

"If there's something he's not happy with, attitude-wise or something I'm doing in the game, he'll definitely let me know."

England's Billy Vunipola - Faletau's cousin - was ruled out by injury before the tour began, and the consensus from northern hemisphere commentators was that left Faletau in pole position for the number eight spot.

England number eight Billy Vunipola was ruled out of the Lions tour with a shoulder injury
England number eight Billy Vunipola was ruled out of the Lions tour with a shoulder injury

He did nothing to dispel that opinion with a fine display against New Zealand Provincial Barbarians, which included a brilliant try-saving tackle to deny Inga Finau what seemed a certain score in the first half.

But prior to the tour, former New Zealand back-row Zinzan Brooke had questioned the 26-year-old's commitment when the going gets tough.

"It's not that he [Faletau] isn't a good player, he just isn't a key player," Brooke had written in his column for AllBlacks.com.

"He's one of these guys that is pretty much good at everything, but doesn't have that mongrel edge.

"Quick lesson for anyone playing the All Blacks - if you don't have that mongrel edge, you get found out pretty quickly against the best team in the world."

Kuli, Taulupe and Vika Faletau in 2009
Taulupe Faletau (M) came to Wales with his father Kuli and mother Vika as a child

But Faletau said there's only one former rugby international he listens to and that is his father, who won 20 caps for Tonga at lock.

"I'm not here to answer anybody, I'm here for my team-mates on the pitch, I'm here for the squad, I'll do anything for them," said Faletau.

"Anyone can say what they want, but I'm here as myself and I'll take my judgement from my team-mates and no one else.

Zinzan Brooke
Zinzan Brooke won 58 caps for New Zealand

"I definitely do listen to the players around me, my coaches and my family as well. I don't really take too much notice of anyone outside that.

"Sometimes I do get a telling-off from my family!

"Personally, I speak to my dad before every game, and he tells me about one thing or whatnot.

"But it's great for us to talk like that, and I really appreciate getting advice like that from him."

Faletau was selected for the 2013 Lions squad to Australia, playing in the series-clinching third Test, and is relishing his second tour.

"I'm more excited this time round. I appreciate the position that I'm in," said the Bath back-row.

"It doesn't come around for everybody and I take the chances that they give me to play."

Faletau admits that Saturday's win - the first of 10 matches in New Zealand - was lacklustre, but promised there is better to come.

"It's been a tough game. The schedule is what it is, no excuses for the performance. It's good to get a blow out, that's the benefit for me," Faletau added.

"We made a few errors, we created chances and didn't finish them off, but it was a tough old game for both sides and we'll be happy with the result.

Kuli Faletau wins a line-out for Ebbw Vale in their 1998 Welsh Cup final defeat by Llanelli
Kuli Faletau wins a line-out for Ebbw Vale in their 1998 Welsh Cup final defeat by Llanelli

"There's plenty to work on and we're more than capable of improving those things.

"We made simple errors, especially in the first half. We need to keep hold of the ball more, go through phases and apply some pressure.

"It's being more patient, being more accurate and applying some pressure by going through the phases and then we can do what we can.

"With the players we have here we're capable of more than what we showed out there.

"We've got quality throughout the squad, we just need to come together a bit more than what we showed."

The Lions are next in action on Wednesday 7 June, when they take on the Blues at Auckland's Eden Park - the stadium where they will play both the first and third Tests against the All Blacks.

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