Taulupe Faletau believes the best is yet to come from his fellow back-row warrior Sam Warburton as he prepares to equal a Wales Test match record in Paris next weekend.
Warburton is poised to captain Wales for the 33rd time, matching Ryan Jones’ feat, when Wales target a fourth successive RBS 6 Nations victory over France.
Number eight Faletau has been at Warburton’s side throughout that period, with Dan Lydiate completing a back-row unit that ranks among the most consistent and destructive in world rugby.
Faletau made his international debut against the Barbarians in June 2011 - Warburton’s first game as skipper - and has witnessed the 51 times-capped flanker’s continued excellence, both for Wales and when he led the 2013 British and Irish Lions to Australia.
“They chucked him in quite early as captain (Warburton was 22), and he’s done well,” Faletau said.
“He has led by example, that is what I think he has done best. Every year, he gets better and better as a captain.
“Sam will speak about it himself, saying it was a bit weird and awkward being so young and having so many experienced boys listening to him. He has definitely grown into it, and he will only get better.
“He talks when he needs to and leads by example. On the pitch he does what he needs to, and the boys follow.
“His trademark is his character. He does his job, and he does it well.
“He has earned that respect from other players from what he has achieved with his home nation. He has got the team to a (World Cup) semi-final, won a (Six Nations) Grand Slam and a championship.”