After eleven years at the Ospreys, British & Irish Lion Dan Biggar has begun life at Northampton Saints as he trades the PRO14 for the Gallagher Premiership. Having moved to Brackley with his young family, his new side have already handed pre-season defeats to the Dragons and Biggar’s former side as they get set for a season opener against Gloucester.
Biggar told RugbyPass, “It’s just been a really good fresh start for me. It’s been a tough slog, it’s been a tough summer. We’ve put a good foundation in to put ourselves in a good spot for the coming season.”
Saints had sunk as low as tenth last season, finishing ninth with fourteen losses with Jim Mallinder having been sacked before Christmas and forwards coach Dorian West shown the door at the end of the season. Alan Dickens was put in temporary charge, but he could not stop the rot.
On a poor season, new man Biggar said, “I think everybody who was here would admit that it was a little bit below par for a club of this size and standing. So I think the recruitment of Chris Boyd and Sam Vesty – those two in particular have put a really positive slant on things this summer. I think it’ll put the club in a good space for years to come and hopefully over the next couple of seasons we’ll climb back up that table.”
He continued, “The club itself has got huge history, huge tradition and that’s one of the reasons which attracted me here. It’s a proper rugby ground in a proper rugby town and I hope the players alike can do the supporters and the town justice by putting it all in on the field every Saturday.”
Biggar’s game management at fly-half will be critical to Saints, as he plays alongside some of the English faces whose Rugby World Cup he ruined in 2015 when scoring 23 out of 28 points to beat the hosts in a Man-of-the-Match performance at Twickenham. He explained to RugbyPass what he believes Saints need to focus on.
Biggar said, “When you look at the best teams in the world, they’ve got a good defence, their set piece is good and their kicking game is generally pretty good. When you get those three things right, you’ve got a good chance. Probably what happened last year, they just went away from making sure their basics were spot on. This year Sam Vesty has got us wanting to play some positive rugby which is going to be exciting but ultimately when you want to play an expansive brand, you have to make sure your nuts and bolts are in order.”
Saints have plenty of nuts and bolts in their squad for the season which includes seventeen senior academy players. 28-year-old Biggar commented, “There’s so many good young players here, you look at some of the speed scores they’re getting – it’s making me feel old, I can guarantee you that! I was speaking to Ollie Sleightholme walking to training, he was born in 2000! I was born in ‘89 so even I’m beginning to feel a bit older now. We’ve got so many good, young boys there – sometimes it’s just reigning that back in a little bit cos there’s so much excitement in the group, so much eagerness, sometimes it’s just about making sure we control ourselves.
Biggar continued, “The brand we want to play is that we want to shift the ball, we want to try and play expansively and if the opportunity is there, to take it. If we’re not quite getting anywhere, if we’re not getting what we want, it’s about being pragmatic and doing the basics and perhaps playing a bit of territory or booting the ball in the air and seeing what we get from there.
“They’ll want a balance. The first couple of games we’ve gone well; driving maul and forward pack have gone really well. Set piece has been good so far. If we build our foundation on that, hopefully we can play some positive rugby.”
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