Peter Jackson: Dead-eye Dan Biggar can be the man for Wales again

Dan BiggarHe finished the season in thoroughbred style sith seven straight wins, running an attack responsible for averaging almost four tries a match. During the course of the Pro 12, he kicked 95 goals, the last of them from the touchline on the ‘wrong’ side of the pitch to win the Celtic League against the champions of Europe. Not before time, Dan Biggar found himself back in favour with Wales – but not for long.
Before making his first international start for 18 months, against the Barbarians last week, they had already told him he would not be going to Australia.
For all his high level consistency as the ringmaster of the Ospreys, revived under Steve Tandy and rejuvenated as much by sheer economic necessity as anything else, Biggar found himself surplus to requirements.
Lucky old Wales that they could afford to be so choosy.  Instead of being on the bench in Brisbane yesterday, Biggar was on the couch at home.
He knew the score, that James Hook’s greater versatility proved the decisive factor when push came to shove in the choice of back-up to Rhys Priestland.    Had the WRU been as consistent in enforcing policy as Biggar has been out in the middle, the choice would have been different but pragmatism rules, as it always will.
When the first of their players decided to take the money on offer in France, the Union made a flailing attempt to dissuade others with a warning that if it came to a choice between a player in Wales and another in France, the home-based man could expect to get the nod.
It was a load of old baloney from the start.  Wales were never going to handicap themselves by ignoring their better players whether employed in Toulouse or Timbucktoo.
By the same token, there was never any chance last week that they would reward Biggar for not flying the coop and omit Hook just because he exercised his rights under European employment law and relocated to Perpignan where they butter his bread more lavishly than the Ospreys could afford in Swansea.
What matters is that Dan The Man has made his point, that he is a match-winner in his own right and that if he keeps maturing at his current rate, Priestland will have no room for error which is how it should be.
Pressure, as Wales discovered during the latter stages of the World Cup, does strange things to the most experienced players.  There was the non-drop goal from Stephen Jones in the semi-final against France when the Welsh cause screamed out for one and there were the missed Hook penalties in the same match.
Now winning the Celtic League is nowhere near as big a deal as winning the World Cup but when it came to pressure Biggar was not found wanting.
As if to underline the point, the unflinching fly-half nailed a winning touchline conversion against Leinster at the RDS in March and then did it again for good measure back at the same place two months later in the Grand Final.
Typically, he never doubted himself for a single second on either occasion, not even during the wait for the video referee to confirm Shane Williams’ last try.
“The delay gave me a lot more time to think,” Biggar said.  “I just reminded myself to make sure I went through the same routine.  I always look at it positively. My thinking is never along the lines of: ‘If I miss this, we don’t win the League.’
“I try to pick a point about ten yards behind the post, whether it’s a face in the crowd or a letter on an advertising board.  I find that minimises the target.”
The process has produced impressive results.  In four seasons as a professional highlighted by two Celtic League titles, Biggar’s points tally is already into four figures and rising.  At 22, his percentages have been rising on the same steep curve.
“A couple of years ago my kicking was 74-75 per cent,” he said.  “Last year it was up to 77-78 and over the season just ended it was 83.  So it’s moving in the right direction although 83 per cent will be hard to beat next season.”
In national terms, Biggar has put himself back on the radar big-time, some change from 18 months ago when he had dropped behind Stephen Jones, Hook and the then uncapped Priestland.
“They like Rhys and rightly so,” Biggar said.  “There are no issues there because he’s had a great 12 months.
“I’d like to think I’m pushing Hookie for the second spot.  From what I hear about the selection for Australia, it was a hugely close call.  I like to think I’m back in the mix and challenging.”
What he’s done is prove the old adage that you can’t keep a good man down…

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