The loss of Billy Vunipola was, and still is, a massive blow to the Lions; the Saracens man was one of the tour poster boys, and filling his boots would be a daunting prospect for anyone to face.
The No.8’s way of playing was exactly what the Northern Hemisphere side needed; a player to front up, and take the game to the All Blacks.
Taulupe Faletau is the likely man to have the job of replacing the Saracens forward, and although the Bath man is outstanding in operating in the back row, the Welshman has already come under fire amongst the New Zealand media.
Former All Black, Zinzan Brooke – capped 58 times by New Zealand – has begun making jibes at the No.8, suggesting he doesn’t have the “mongrel edge” to be a success this summer.
Faletau can start trying to convince the Kiwis this coming Saturday with a performance against Provincial Union XV, and has zero interest in getting into verbal jibes in the media before kick-off:
“I’ve got no reply for him to be honest. It’s his opinion and I’ll just go about doing my job.
He has been playing well for a long time. But the quality of back-row here is more than capable of covering any injuries…
It’s always evident what Billy does; he just batters people when he gets the ball and it takes a lot of people to take him down.”
— Taulupe Faletau
Whether Faletau can fill Billy’s boots can only be decided during the test series, but the Welshman trying to replace the Englishman is like Martin Corry taken Lawrence Dallaglio’s place back in 2005.