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Page last updated at 13:59 GMT, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Toby Faletau is honoured by Wales call-up

Toby Faletau
Faletau has played three senior games for the Newport Gwent Dragons

Teenage back-rower Toby Faletau is a step closer to achieving his dream of becoming the first senior Wales international from the South Seas.

Faletau will make his first Under-20s start against France on Friday.

The 19-year-old, who plays for Cross Keys and Newport Gwent Dragons academy, is the son of former Ebbw Vale and Tonga lock forward Kuli.

"It's a great honour to play for your country, it's a great rugby country and I'd like to take this chance," he said.

Faletau says he was never likely to prefer the red of his native Tonga to the red of Wales.

"Not really, no," he added. "I've been here most of my life so I'm just aiming for this [representing Wales]. I just try my best and see how far I can go. My dad's supported me all the way.

"I've been playing down at Cross Keys, got a chance with the Dragons and now this as well. It's been going well so far."

The quietly-spoken teenager has to be pressed to name his playing strengths as "a bit of ball-carrying, get around, make a few tackles", but Wales Under-20 coach Phil Davies is more forthcoming.

"He was bred in Wales and he's a typical islander, a powerful player with his dad's genetics. He didn't have much time with us last year for various reasons but he's been a fantastic addition, he's a good lad and works hard to gel."

Faletau has already played three games in the senior Dragons team and hopes that will help him cope with the occasion at the Arms Park.

"There'll be nerves, there's always nerves but I'll just handle it and go for it," he said.

Faletau senior was part of the first wave of Pacific Islands players to make their mark in the Welsh game and featured in the 1999 World Cup at the age of 35.

He will be at the Arms Park to support the family's rising star, along with Toby's mother, brothers and sisters.

Previously Haloti Molitika - nephew of the Cardiff Blues flanker Maama - played for Wales at junior age group level but changed allegiance and went on to play for his native Tonga at U20 level.

Meanwhile, centre Owen Williams has been forced to withdraw from the Wales Under-20 team after sustaining an injury in training.

The Blues product will be replaced in the starting line-up by Ospreys academy and Aberavon centre Ben John.

Wales Under-20 team: Dan Fish (Blues); James Loxton (Blues), Ben John (Ospreys), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Kristian Phillips (Ospreys); Matthew Jarvis (Ospreys), Rhys Downes (Blues); Dan Watchurst (Dragons), Rhys Williams (Blues), Simon Gardiner (Scarlets), Macauley Cook (Blues), Lloyd Peers (Ospreys), Morgan Allen (Pontypool), Josh Navidi (capt, Blues), Toby Faletau (Dragons).
Replacements: Ieuan Davies (Glamorgan Wanderers), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), James Thomas (Dragons), Rhys Jenkins (Dragons), Edward Siggery (Llandovery), Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Dean Gunter (Blues). Travelling reserve: Trystan Davies (Scarlets).

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