1. ITV Report

All Blacks fear world-class Faletau - Williams

Taulupe Faletau scoring one of three tries for Bath over the weekend. Credit: PA

Zinzan Brooke has only launched a scathing attack on Taulupe Faletau because the All Blacks fear his "world-class" impact for the British and Irish Lions, according to Shane Williams.

Former New Zealand number eight Brooke criticised Faletau for lacking the "mongrel edge" to flourish on the summer's Lions tour, but ex-Wales wing Williams has dismissed the jibes as mere mind games.

Wales flanker Faletau could yet forge a potent back-row partnership with England wrecking-ball Billy Vunipola in New Zealand, leaving former Lions speedster Williams purring at the prospect.

I know Taulupe very well, and I don't think he'd even watch or listen to anything that's being said out there.

He's a world-class player and Zinzan Brooke knows that.

Taulupe's a little bit different from your usual back-rower, he's got great feet, and his ball awareness as a player...he's superb and that's why he's on this tour.

So players don't really pay too much attention to what's said off the field. It's all about doing your best in training and then turning it on on the field. For Taulupe or whoever receives niggle or banter, they'll take it on the chin and move on.

I suppose you're only going to start talking about or criticising players you worry could do the business against your team. That's who you'd target, and these are usually the danger players, it's often the outside halves. But the likes of Taulupe and Billy Vunipola, they are great players who can work together well, and they've definitely got enough dog in them, they've definitely got enough niggle.

– Shane Williams, former Wales and Lions winger
Taupe Faletau scores the opening try against New Zealand on June 11, 2016. Credit: PA

The Lions' bid for a first series win over the All Blacks since 1971 will get under way on June 3 with a clash against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians.

Faletau is fighting to carry top form into the gruelling 10-match, three-Test tour, after suffering knee problems earlier in the year.

And the 26-year-old improved his lot by blasting in a hat-trick in Bath's 44-20 demolition of Gloucester on Sunday.

Brooke insisted Faletau cannot command "key player" status in Warren Gatland's Lions squad, but Williams laughed off the criticism.

I know that Taulupe's very focused at the moment, on getting his fitness back and playing well for Bath. And he started that process at the weekend by scoring a hat-trick. It's never too early to start the banter. We're going to see a lot more of that in the coming weeks from the likes of Zinny (Brooke), Graham Henry, people like that.

But it doesn't affect players at all, they certainly stay away from all that.

If it has any effect at all it's just extra motivation to go out there and do the business.

– Shane Williams, former Wales and Lions winger

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