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Lions explain why Biggar made just three measly passes in 2nd Test

By Liam Heagney

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Gregor Townsend had defended the intricacies of how out-half Dan Biggar played in last weekend’s second Test Lions defeat to the Springboks, a Cape Town loss that prevented them from clinching the series with one match to spare. Welsh out-half Biggar has been selected again to start at No10 for this Saturday’s series decider versus the South Africans, a selection that came despite much focus getting placed on how Biggar only passed the ball a measly three times in the 27-9 loss. Truth be told, though, it was only one pass less than the four he made in the previous week’s 22-17 win.  

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Overall in his 57 second Test minutes for the Lions, Biggar made three passes, made two metres off three carries and kicked for 331 metres while the previous week when he played 67 first Test minutes, he made four passes, gained eight metres from two carries and kicked for 275 metres.

Reflecting on the most recent Test performance of Biggar, attack coach Townsend defended the impact of the Lions No10 by insisting one stat can’t be looked at in isolation as it doesn’t reflect their overall view. “We kicked a few times when we got into the opposition half and that sometimes brought rewards and sometimes it didn’t – that was obviously a strategy,” explained Townsend when quizzed on the Biggar stat of just three passes.   

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“And then in the first half we felt that we were gaining momentum a lot playing off nine and when you play more off nine, your ten is not going to touch the ball on too many occasions but in terms of a half of rugby, we were pretty pleased with a lot of what had gone on. We could have moved the ball more, we could have taken those opportunities when we got into the 22 to come alive a little bit more but it was a half of rugby where Dan was at 10 where he made really good decisions and was very accurate with his kicking game.

“Dan didn’t play a huge amount in the second half so if we are looking at a passing stat, he obviously didn’t play 80 minutes and in that second half, we didn’t get that much ball. But whether a ten passes a lot or not it is not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing. We want our tens to take on this blitz defence.

“When some people are rushing up on the outside, you can play around it, you can play between it or you can take it on as a first receiver and Dan did that a couple of times well. There are more nuances and a bit more in behind those stats. But in terms of a first half of rugby when Dan was at ten we felt we did enough to control that game and put more points on the board.”  

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Biggar was just one of two Wales starters in last weekend’s loss along with Alun Wyn Jones, the lowest representation of the four countries that made up the team, but the Welsh now have the largest XV representing for the third Test after front-rowers Wyn Jones and Ken Owens, along with full-back Liam Williams and winger Josh Adams, were called up to start. 

Asked what he wants from the Welsh pair in the back three, Townsend replied: “To bring their individual strengths. They are outstanding rugby players. There is a lot of focus on Josh around his finishing and Liam around his aerial strengths but I see them as outstanding rugby players. They make good decisions in attack and defence, they connect really well with others in the backline, really good people and they deserve their chance with how well they played and trained on this tour.”

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Lions explain why Biggar made just three measly passes in 2nd Test

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