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Faletau unbowed by meek Lions showing

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 4/06/2017 Angelo Risso

The man tasked with filling the sizeable shoes of Billy Vunipola for the British and Irish Lions says his side will be better off for their "blow-out" against a mostly semi-professional provincial Barbarians outfit in Whangarei.

Welsh loosie Taulupe Faletau is expected to slot in as the Lions' first-choice No.8 for their tour of New Zealand after the strapping Vunipola, a devastating ball-carrier and tackler, was ruled out of the 10-match, six-week series with a shoulder issue.

He played from the first minute of their tour opener against the Baabaas, making a solid 14 tackles and one try-saving effort across the full 80 minutes.

He also picked up a handy 38 metres with ball in hand.

But overall the picture was a bleak one for the star-studded Lions side, which struggled to convert chances or dominate their humble opponents at the set-piece.

In the end, only penalty goals to subdued Irish first-five Johnny Sexton and Scottish halfback Greig Laidlaw secured a 13-7 win.

"It was a tough old game, they were incredibly tough to come up against, (so) we'll work on what we need to work on," the 26-year-old Faletau told reporters.

"We expected them to be up for it, and that's exactly what we got - we made a few errors, created chances and just didn't finish them off.

"The players we've got here, they've got quality so we just need to come together a bit more than what we showed out there today, and (stop) errors."

English wrecking ball Vunipola, coming off a superb 18 months with Saracens, was expected to spearhead the Lions' tilt at the All Blacks later this month with his ability to crash through defenders, offload at will and help out at the set piece.

Yet the Bath-based Faletau, who played one Test for the Lions in 2013, said he didn't feel any extra pressure to step up in his cousin's absence.

He would only take judgement from those close to him, such as his teammates, his father - 1991 World Cup star and Tonga legend Kuli - and boss Warren Gatland.

"I'm here for the squad, I'll do anything for them," Faletau said.

"Everybody else, they can have their opinion.

"The thing I do personally, I speak to Dad before almost every game and he tells me something or whatnot, we'll just talk - I take a lot of advice from him.

"If any critics out there are going to affect me, it'll be my Dad."

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