Dan Biggar: Wales fly-half excited about World Cup 'pinnacle'

By Gareth GriffithsBBC Sport Wales
Dan Biggar: Fly-half reflects on new life at Northampton and previews 2019 with Wales

While 2018 has been all change for Dan Biggar, the Wales outside-half hopes the next year will prove a successful one.

The last 12 months have seen major alterations in Biggar's life as he joined Northampton from Ospreys and became a father for the first time.

In the Test arena, Biggar had to adapt to a new Wales replacement role in the autumn as he started only one game with Gareth Anscombe having three chances to wear the 10 jersey.

The 29-year-old missed the opening November game against Scotland because he was unavailable with the match falling outside World Rugby's international window.

Biggar came off the bench to kick the winning penalty against Australia and changed the game in the final quarter to guide Wales to another win against South Africa.

In between, he produced a man-of-the-match performance in the 74-24 hammering of Tonga.

"You've got to be satisfied with four wins from four, it's the first time we've done that," said Biggar.

"It was an enjoyable campaign, and considering I would have liked to have started a couple more games, probably the most enjoyable in terms of some contributions, to come off the bench and be involved in some great wins.

"It was nice to almost hand the pressure over to someone else and not have to worry from minute one.

"You see a different side of things when you're watching the game unfold, you can see what's needed when you come on or what message you can give at half-time and stuff like that.

"I have a different role. I'm aware what my strengths and weaknesses are, as the coaches are. Gareth played well, he had a solid autumn.

"Results have been good for us so I'm looking forward, if selected, to the Six Nations. It'll be another good battle."

Wales will finish 2018 ranked third in the world with nine successive wins under their belt. They start their Six Nations campaign against France in Paris on 1 February in a tournament where Ireland will be favourites.

Scarlets pivot Rhys Patchell will come into the fly-half selection equation alongside Biggar and Anscombe.

So Wales have three options at 10 after Biggar had been an automatic first-choice for almost six years. The Biggar of a few years go might have bristled at that but he says fatherhood has changed his outlook.

"I'm relaxed about the whole situation," said Biggar.

"Maybe previously I would have got more worked up about it and been tense and fidgety. But since having a little one, your priorities change a bit whatever job you're in.

"You go home and it's the best feeling in the world. He doesn't care if you've been slated by the press or if you've had a shocker or if you've kicked the winner against Australia. He couldn't give a monkey's.

"I feel more relaxed and refreshed, just taking it one step at a time. What will be will be."

The Wales fly-half jersey always attracts plenty of scrutiny. Biggar knows that more than most.

Dan Biggar has started 55 out of his 65 Tests for Wales
Dan Biggar has started 55 out of his 65 Tests for Wales

"The 10 position is what everyone speaks about in Wales," said Biggar.

"Everyone's got an interest in the 10 position, that's fine - but we should be concentrating on not just the 10 position, but how much strength in depth there is in each position.

"What we've created in the past 12-18 months is real depth in the squad, so we are capable of rotating and not thinking we're going to come unstuck.

"The coaches have to take a huge amount of credit for the way they have gelled this squad and created depth. We're in a good spot in terms of each position, not just 10.

"That's where we need to focus our attention - on bigging this team up because we have a great chance of doing something special in this Six Nations. Then everyone knows what's towards the end of the year."

World Cup fever

That is the World Cup in Japan, with Biggar playing a starring role in the 2015 tournament kicking a match-winning penalty in a pool win against England on the way to the quarter-final which resulted in defeat to South Africa.

"It's the pinnacle of your career," said Biggar.

"I know the Lions was special, but the World Cup is really special. It's a global showpiece. You probably get people from cricket and football who perhaps don't watch rugby for three and a half years tuning in.

"There are nine test matches before the World Cup. We're in a good spot at the minute, but let's not go overboard as well.

"We're aware there's a lot of time and a lot of games to play. Form, injuries - anything can happen in nine months.

"Let's hope we can keep building rather than peaking too soon.

"Everyone wants to be part of that 31-man squad. Probably for myself and some of the boys who were involved in the last one, we played all our games in Twickenham or the Principality Stadium.

"So it didn't feel like a full World Cup experience. I'm desperate to be involved in that squad to sample the full experience of travelling to another country.

"Japan will put on an unbelievable show, and to be part of that and play at different grounds and venues will be special for anyone involved."

Dan Biggar
Dan Biggar kicked six penalties in Northampton's win over Worcester on 21 December

Biggar is hoping he can play a full part in the build-up with his presence at the training camp in Switzerland and two opening warm-up matches against England in doubt.

Premiership Rugby will not release non-English players for World Cup camps next year unless World Rugby changes its insurance rules.

The clubs are objecting to certain restrictions over payouts if players are injured on international duty.

As it stands England-based Scotland and Wales players will be unable to join their national squads until mid-August.

So Biggar's decision to leave Ospreys for Northampton has created some small obstacles in his international career but he has no regrets.

"I'm loving it," said Biggar.

"I am coming into work every day with a great group of lads and the coaches are excellent. We know we could probably do with a couple more results because we've played some good rugby at times.

"Over the next couple of months, before the Six Nations when we lose a few boys, if we can string a couple of performances together, pick a few wins up, all of a sudden you shoot up the league and you never know where you can finish."

Biggar has highlighted the differences between the two leagues.

"This league, week in week out, is a slog," said Biggar.

"I have played in the Pro14 for 10 years, the quality of that league is exceptional.

"For rocking up week in week out up here, not being able to rotate your squad like we've seen in the early weeks of the Pro14, it's different.

"It's great though. Each week you go to Bath or Gloucester with packed houses. It's a big reason why I signed to play in this league."

Dan Biggar has scored 102 points in 12 games for Northampton Saints since joining the club
Dan Biggar has scored 102 points in 12 games for Northampton Saints since joining the club

Moving away from Wales

Biggar has also enjoyed moving away from Wales.

"It's a rugby-mad town here and supporters turn up week in week out and are excellent," said Biggar.

"Just living that little bit outside gives you that bit of relief.

"It's like a goldfish bowl in Wales and it's been nice to come up here, where people do not know who you are as much and you can go under the radar a bit more.

"It's different but I'm glad I did it because I didn't want to be in one place for my whole career and wanted to try to test myself.

"I had 10 great years in Wales and loved every minute of it. It was just right for me to test myself elsewhere and I'm loving living away."

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