Toby Faletau will set a Wales World Cup record when he runs out against Australia in today’s World Cup bronze medal match at Eden Park.
Newport Gwent Dragons back-row forward Faletau will make his seventh successive start in one World Cup, surpassing the previous mark of six set by Paul Thorburn, Adrian Hadley and Paul Moriarty 24 years ago.
It is a remarkable achievement by the 20-year-old, who was only handed his Test debut in June.
Apart from creating a Wales World Cup best, he also has the task of coping with revered Australian openside David Pocock, having been switched from No 8 to flanker as replacement for suspended captain Sam Warburton.
As ever, though, Faletau – who has been lauded by Wales coach Warren Gatland for his maturity and ability to read a game – is taking everything in his stride.
“Coming out here, I didn’t expect to start as much,” he said. “It has definitely been the greatest experience of my rugby-playing life. I just go out there to play rugby. I didn’t start getting into rugby until I was a teenager, but my ambition has always been to play in a World Cup.
“David Pocock is one of the best sevens out there. I’ve only ever played one game at seven, for the Dragons against Munster, and we lost. It is a tough position – there is a lot more running – but I enjoyed it.”
Thirty-four-year-old Wales wing Shane Williams will be making his final World Cup appearance.
“I am getting to the age where I am looking around and I’m getting depressed just looking at these guys and looking at their dates of birth,” he said.
“You could swear some of them have been playing for 20-odd years with the experience they’ve shown on the field.”