Taulupe Faletau column: “First is still our objective”

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We’ve had a pretty good return to form this week, and having bounced back from the Ireland game a fortnight ago there’s a much better feeling around camp this weekend compared to last.

Another rest week in quick succession also helps give us more time to train for our next game. As a team motivating each other isn’t tough during rest weeks, and we’ll definitely be prepared for England when the time comes.

Preparation is really important in rugby. I remember my first professional game for [Newport Gwent] Dragons, being quite scared entering a professional environment as the inexperienced debutant. It’s an environment we’re so used to seeing from the outside, but have no inside knowledge of until you’re involved. Being new to a team makes you nervous, but that expectation to perform now acts as a boost in my games and encourages me to achieve more.

In terms of Wales, I never expected to be called up to the national team, so when I did those nerves from my early days at the Dragons quickly returned. I didn’t expect to start so soon when I did, either. There were a few players at the squad I felt were better than me, both more experienced and more skillful. Before I know it though, I’m making my debut [against the Barbarians] with my family watching and supporting from the stands. It felt special, and still does every time I put on that red jersey to this day.

I’m almost on autopilot now when I step onto that pitch. I know I’ve got a job to do and how to do it. The atmosphere, the crowd, and the music only add to the occasion. Last Friday against France was a perfect example of this mixing together, and the crowd’s support made the team feel a lot bigger than just us boys on the pitch.

A few of us have had our set backs in the past through injury, and there’s nothing worse than arriving at a training camp when you’re not 100% like a few of us have had experience of. You know you’ll be ruled out, and can’t play the next game. When you do make a return, it makes it all worth it and you can then focus on the next game with the hope you’ll regain your place if you’ve done enough.

We’re still in the thick of it in the Six Nations, fighting it out with a few of the best teams in this hemisphere. We’re starting to realise that second is now not necessarily a success and first is still our objective. The final few games will be huge, and it’s now onto preparing for that – only with a much better atmosphere than last time around.

Column exclusively brought to you by Under Armour athlete and WRU back row forward, Taulupe Faletau.