Former Wales captain Sam Warburton has given his verdict on some key Wales and Lions selection debates after being left in awe by the performance of Taulupe Faletau against Italy.

Warburton described Faletau as one of the best number eights to have graced world rugby over the last 10 years, insisting he has to be considered the front-runner to take the shirt for the British and Irish Lions next year.

And, following the 38-18 win over Italy in the fifth-place play-off of the Autumn Nations Cup, Warburton has revealed some of the players he expects to start for Wales in next year's Six Nations..

It's not been an ideal campaign for Wales under Wayne Pivac, who himself has come under some pressure after a previous run of seven defeats in 10 games.

But, despite some lingering problems, the win sees Wales end a difficult 2020 on a high, and Warburton, analysing the game as a pundit for Amazon Prime's coverage, was full of praise for Faletau, adding that his link-up play with try scorer Justin Tipuric in particular was a fundamental part of their win in Llanelli.

"I thought the way Faletau and Tipuric combined both sides of the ball was brilliant today," Warburton said. "I haven't seen a pair of back rowers play as well together for years in a Welsh shirt.

"They were both great. They both showed their Lions quality. Toby with ball in hand is phenomenal. His ability to beat the first defender is second to none because he's got he great athleticism, great balance, great foot work, and he's a powerful explosive guy with nice hands.

"Himself combining with Justin was a big part of Wales being able to get on the front foot, win that physical battle."

The pair's performance will have surely pleased Pivac too, and no doubt given Lions head coach Warren Gatland something to think about ahead of next year's Lions tour of South Africa.

The number 8 jersey has emerged as a position still seemingly up for debate, with many on the other side of the Severn banging the drum for Billy Vunipola's inclusion.

But Warburton believes Faletau's status as one of the world's best can't be overlooked, adding that Gatland also shouldn't rule out playing both players.

"Somebody actually asked me to pick my Lions back row the other day," he continued. "If they're both playing well, I don't know why you can't play Billy Vunipola and Toby Faletau. I'd love to see those two play together. That would cause some damage.

"I think Toby right now is the number one front-runner for the number 8.

"Toby's in the same breath as the Kieran Reid, Sergio Parisse, those three for me ar the best number 8s in world rugby in the past decade."

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Positions are still up for grabs for Wales too ahead of the opening clash with Ireland in the Six Nations in February, particularly at scrum-half.

Scarlets stalwart Gareth Davies certainly did his chances no harm, capping off a lively performance from the bench with a try.

Nevertheless, Warburton believes Rhys Webb will still be considered the first choice.

"That tactical kicking battle is going to be so important for Wales against Ireland in the Six Nations..

"When they're all at their best, I think they'll go with Rhys Webb with his experience and his kicking game, but Gareth Davies has thrown his hat in the mix on the back of that performance."

Another man to get in amongst the tries was George North, who proved a powerful presence in the midfield in a largely unfamiliar role at outside centre.

North had previously missed the games with England and Georgia to get some game time, and Warburton believes a midfield role could now be the most effective way to get the best out of the Ospreys star.

"The biggest criticism so far is Wales haven't got George with his hands on the ball enough. George must have had 10 to 15 touches today, maybe 80 or 90 metres.

"A massive amount more - and it's no coincidence that's because he moved in a number 13, and for me, you look at Fiji, they've got so many freakish athletes. Genetically, George is a freakish athlete. We need to get him, ball in hand, one-on-one.

"They managed to do that today, and it had an impact."

As for other places in the team, Warburton said: "When that first game comes around, I'd expect Liam Williams, Leigh Halfpenny to come in.

"Number 10 is a big one, but I'd expect Dan Biggar to come straight back in.

"But what we've unearthed in this campaign is that we've got two players in every position, who can step up and play a good game for Wales in the red jersey.

"That's been a positive."