Earlier this week it was announced that Dan Biggar would be leaving Ospreys at the end of the season to complete his long-rumoured move to Northampton Saints.
Biggar will be moving to Franklin’s Gardens at the conclusion of his current deal, meaning he’ll no longer be directly contracted by the WRU.
Northampton fans will be grateful for a bit of good news after their horrendous display against Saracens at the weekend, and the signing of a proven international and Lions tourist should go some way towards improving the mood in the Midlands. But is Dan Biggar the saviour the Saints need right now? Let’s take a look:
What does Biggar offer?
In short, Saints are getting a player who has demonstrated he’s capable of success. Two Pro12 winners medals are hanging in his downstairs loo (probably, where else would you keep them?), meaning Biggar is well versed on what it takes to bring home silverware. He has been Wales first-choice fly-half for much of the past four years and has success at the highest level, winning the Six Nations in 2013.
Though he’s at times given the kicking duties over to Leigh Halfpenny, he’s still scored 295 points over his 56 caps for the national side, and with an impressive 2,000+ points for Ospreys over 200+ appearances for his region, the Saints are getting a proven goal scorer with a wealth of experience in high profile matches.
Biggar’s metronomic boot is probably his strongest asset (besides his sweet, sweet dance moves) , so the ability to keep the scoreboard ticking over is right at the top of his CV.
That’s not to say he doesn’t offer anything with the ball in hand, but he plays deeper and more defensively than the mercurial fly-half wizards like your Danny Ciprianis and Carlos Spencers. Biggar is a solid playmaker who reads the game very well and kicks excellently out of hand, but during his time in a Wales jersey the side were often criticised for relying too much on the crash ball rather than a spark of midfield magic.
Whilst he’s no Jonny Wilkinson, Biggar’s defence is also solid for a fly-half. His positioning and technique are good and he’s strong under the high ball both on the kick chase and receiving, so he’s unlikely to add any extra vulnerabilities to Northampton’s already leaky back line.
Perhaps one of the most crucial benefits Biggar brings to the Saints is his age. At only 27 but with a wealth of experience behind him, Biggar is just hitting the peak of his career and, despite the fact that the length of his new deal has not been disclosed, Northampton can build a team around him for the foreseeable future.
What do Saints need?
Biggar’s benefits are numerous, but unfortunately right now so are Northampton’s deficits. They started last season with a horrendously dull attacking strategy and despite the fact it livened up in the second half of the campaign, this weekend’s season opener again demonstrated an inability to create anything of note going forward.
Partly this must have been due to injuries to regular fly half Stephen Myler and new signing Piers Francis forcing a more conservative strategy, but Myler has for years been regarded as a steady hand rather than particularly dynamic. He’s been a solid servant to the club and an excellent Premiership player but his lack of attacking prowess is probably the main reason he’s never really broken through into the England squad. Dan Biggar likely offers more of the same.
If Northampton can settle on a back line though, this may not be the end of the world. Given his star status, Biggar is almost guaranteed the 10 jersey regardless of form (something I’ve griped about before ).
This means that new boy Piers Francis will have to settle for a bench role or else move to 12. To do that he’ll have to usurp Harry Mallinder, who’s been a rare bright spark for the Saints over the last couple of years.
Biggar can be the axis that allows a more creative 12 to get the back line flowing, or alternatively he can allow Cobus Reinach to dictate the play from scrum half.
Regardless, with the likes of Luther Burrell, Nafi Tuitavake, Rory Hutchinson, Tom Stephenson and Rob Horne all vying for positions in the midfield Northampton don’t really seem to need another addition to the back line as badly as they do elsewhere.
The main worry for Saints right now has been the departure of Louis Picamoles. The Frenchman had such a phenomenal year in Black, Green & Gold last season that he’s returned to Montpellier, and despite the Saints getting a handsome cheque in return they’ve yet to announce his replacement.
Sam Dickinson was deemed surplus to requirements at the end of last year, but has been brought back in on a short term deal to fill the void at 8. When the supposed new year arrival is announced (names like Brad Shields and Heinrich Brüssow have been bandied about), Saints fans may breathe a little easier but for now, the money spent on bringing in Biggar looks like it could have been put to better use elsewhere.
In Dan Biggar, Saints have signed a world class talent who has all the ability to become one of the stand-out players in the Premiership and lead the club to great success. The only concern will be whether he’s the right man for the job. Bringing in Biggar will involve some drastic changes in personnel and playing style, but if this is done well, this may be the shrewdest signing Saints have ever made. Right now though, Saints have some work to do to make sure there is a solid foundation waiting for him when he arrives.