Taulupe Faletau: Forward would be 'big loss' for Wales, says Martyn Williams
Taulupe Faletau would be a "big loss" if he misses the start of the 2017 Six Nations championship, says ex-Wales flanker Martyn Williams.
The Bath number eight is ruled out for four to six weeks with a knee ligament injury suffered on Christmas Eve.
Wales face Italy in Rome on Sunday, 5 February and defending champions England at home six days later.
"It's a worry, it's a big concern. In my opinion he's Wales' best player," Williams told BBC Wales.
"He's been Wales' best player for the last four or five years so it's a big, big loss if he does not come through in time for that first game against Italy.
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The 26-year-old missed two months at the start of the season with the same injury after joining Bath from Newport Gwent Dragons in the summer of 2015.
Faletau missed three of the 2016 autumn internationals before making a big impact off the bench in the 27-13 win over South Africa on 26 November.
Gloucester forward Ross Moriarty stepped into the number eight role for much of the autumn series, and Williams expects the Wales management team to do the same thing if Faletau misses the Italy match.
"Taulupe is such a cog in that machine. You saw when he came on, only for the second-half against South Africa, the difference he makes," added Williams, who made 100 appearances for Wales.
"The timing of his passes, his footwork, his ball carrying ability, everything, the full package.
"He is a miss, but there is a lot of class there who can cover him and hopefully it will be for one game at the most too.
"The back row against Argentina where it was Moriarty at eight, Sam Warburton at six and Justin Tipuric at seven worked really, really well,"
"I suppose that is one silver lining. As long as those three get to the Six Nations fit there's a combination that has been tried before."