Six Nations 2017: Wales' Taulupe Faletau faces Italy fitness test

Taulupe Faletau
Taulupe Faletau made his 62nd appearance for Wales in the win over South Africa in November 2016
Six Nations: Italy v Wales
Date: Sunday, 5 February Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on S4C, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary

Wales number eight Taulupe Faletau faces a fitness test on Wednesday ahead of the Six Nations opener against Italy on Sunday, 5 February.

The 26-year-old Bath back-rower has not played since Christmas Eve after suffering a knee injury.

Faletau made only one replacement appearance for Wales in November.

"We're very hopeful he'll be fit for Sunday, but if not fit we'll have somebody else be keen and ready to go," said defence coach Shaun Edwards.

"If not [fit to face Italy], hopefully he'll be fit for England [on Saturday 11 February].

"You want your best players fit and ready, and we all saw what a fantastic impact he had in the South Africa game when he came off the bench."

Faletau's lack of recent game-time increases the chances of Sam Warburton, Justin Tipuric and Ross Moriarty forming the starting back row in Rome.

Asked if it would be less likely Faletau would start because of his injury, Edwards said: "It's up to [head coach] Rob [Howley] to decide, but my thought would be yes, probably it is.

"His impact off the bench was absolutely phenomenal against South Africa."

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Six Nations 2017: Wales need 'A-game' against Italy - Howley

Biggar backed

Edwards also praised the contribution in that game of 51-times capped Ospreys fly-half Dan Biggar, who faces competition from regional team-mate Sam Davies and uncapped Leicester stand-off Owen Williams.

"NDCs (national dual contracts) have kicked in for some players (controlling regional game-time) and there's definitely a spring in the step of people like Dan Biggar.

"Having studied the South Africa game in detail from the defensive aspect, I'll stick my neck out and say Dan Biggar was our best defensive player.

"I'm very pleased with Sam's progress, but Dan Biggar was probably our best defensive player."

Edwards also highlighted the form of Scarlets centre Scott Williams, who looks likely to be chosen ahead of either Jamie Roberts or Jonathan Davies to start against Italy.

Roberts has had time out with a head injury while Davies was on the bench for the Scarlets' European Champions Cup draw against Saracens after hamstring trouble.

"I was very pleased with him [Scott Williams], with his leadership in the Saracens game and a few other games over the Christmas period.

"At the moment he's playing regularly and that just makes a massive difference."

Uncapped Dragons' wing Ashton Hewitt has yet to train with Howley's squad because of concussion checks, while Italy have called up Glasgow flanker Simone Favaro after an ankle injury to Dries van Schalkwyk.

Wales are due to name their team on Thursday 2 February.

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