After being understandably piqued by criticism coming from one of his own countryman, JJ Williams, in a not-so-friendly fire, Dan Biggar has been staunchly defended by his club coach at Northampton.
“If you need someone to stay on task, to make sure that they keep their nerve to run a game down, or close a game out in knockout rugby, there is no better player in the world. He’s mentally as tough as hell,” said Chris Boyd to RugbyPass about his Welsh out-half.
The former Hurricanes head coach, who led the Wellington-based Super Rugby franchise to the title in 2016 and oversaw All Blacks superstar Beauden Barrett, added that what sets Biggar apart is his unshakeable mental resolve.
“I have often said I’d hate to see an argument between him and TJ Perenara. They are two of the most bloody-minded people I’ve ever worked with. If you want to go into battle with anyone, it’s Dan Biggar. He’s an absolute trooper.”
Speaking at the midweek Gallagher Premiership launch at Twickenham, Boyd was particularly pleased with the performance his Saints pivot put in against England last month at the Principality Stadium after his worth to Wales had been publicly questioned.
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“The response he put in against England, after he had criticism, well I thought it was superb. That summed up, in a nutshell, what Dan Biggar can do and who he is as a bloke.”
With Gareth Anscombe, the former Chiefs full-back, having to sit out the World Cup with a long-term ACL injury, some people have suggested that Wales’ attacking flair has disappeared with him.
Boyd, though, feels the reality is more nuanced and undersells what Biggar actually brings to Warren Gatland’s squad. “I don’t know how Wales are intending to play the game out in Japan but it will be a mistake to play a different game to what he is capable of doing.
Dan Biggar spearheaded a confidence-inducing win over a subdued English side and silenced a few doubters. @WelshRugbyUnion can travel to Turkey in good spirits with their World Cup plans still in tact.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 18, 2019
“Don’t forget the bloody-mindedness he brings has made Wales pretty successful over the last four or five years. He gets a bit emotional on the pitch, but that’s his nature. He demands such high standards.”
Boyd admitted that before he started working closely with Biggar at Franklin’s Gardens if the player’s his ultra-competitiveness would be to the detriment of the team. His fears proved unfounded.
“When you get those determined individuals, you do wonder, but I’ve found, like TJ (Perenara), he is a great team man. He bought into a bigger concept than ‘Dan Biggar’ and that is great. He’s just a really, really good human being.”
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It’s just over a year since Boyd started to work with the former Ospreys playmaker, explaining he was pleasantly surprised with the calibre of player he inherited when Jim Mallinder left Northampton after a decade at the helm.
“The nice thing about Dan is that when I first met him, we had a really clear agreement that if he had a good three years experience at Northampton then so would I. There are parts of his game that he needs to improve, and he is aware of that, but what I offered him was safety inside the Northampton framework to try and develop his game.
“By his own admission, he is not the most naturally gifted athlete in the world. He’s more comfortable running a game than trying to orchestrate things but he has worked hard. His foot and hand skills are extremely competent. I have no doubt he will be highly influential for Wales in Japan.”
Missing out with England hasn't been easy for Dylan Hartley https://t.co/AMyWTfN4gk
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 12, 2019
Another to pitch in and back a former rival for the fabled Test No10 jersey was 50-cap Wales and Bath fly-half, Rhys Priestland. “Look, Dan’s a great competitor, a fantastic kicker and unbelievable under the high ball.
“I probably see more of him playing for Wales now and whenever he has come on for Anscombe he has had a positive impact. I got better coming across the bridge (to play in the Premiership) and I’m sure he’s the same.”
Like Boyd, Priestland thinks the intense scrutiny Biggar comes under is water off a duck’s back – par for the course in Wales. “It’s a weird one. When Anscombe was playing, there were people asking for him to start, and now Dan is starting they are asking for someone else.
“The squad have been together long enough this summer that they are in a good place. They are at a stage where I can’t see external opinions having an influence on the squad. If they do, it will only serve to make them stronger. I’m sure he will thrive in the pressure of a World Cup.”
WATCH: The RugbyPass stadium guide to Toyota where Wales will open their World Cup campaign against Georgia on September 23
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