It's Biggar the better with a dragon's fire in the belly

No longer 'just a kicker', the Osprey who stayed looks to regain his Wales place

Sean Holley describes the Ospreys' fly-half Dan Biggar as "probably the most consistent 10 in Wales at the moment, he kicks his goals, he's making more line-breaks than in the past, he's a winner, a tactical organiser and a leader". Oh, and Biggar also kicked the touchline conversion that gave his team last season's Pro12 title when they beat the newly crowned European champions, Leinster, away in Dublin. What, as they say, is not to like? "He's not Barry John," says Holley, the former Ospreys coach and one of Biggar's biggest fans. "Daniel won't ever be fully appreciated until he leaves Wales. When he goes to a big French or English club – if he goes – he will get the recognition he deserves."

Biggar, who turned 23 last Tuesday, has his latest chance in the Heineken Cup at Leicester today to prove Holley right and get picked in Wales's squad to be named tomorrow for the autumn internationals against Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.

It would represent a recall after Biggar was left out of the summer tour, when Wales lost three Tests to the Wallabies by a fine margin. Neither the Swansea-born No 10 nor, surely, anyone else, will ever stand true comparison with Barry John, the will o' the wisp of the 1960s and '70s against whom only Jonathan Davies and Arwel Thomas in more modern times came close to measuring up in terms of both style and substance.

James Hook was the latest lumbered with the "new John" tag when he broke through six years ago, but he has flitted between Nos 10, 12 and 15. The fly-half incumbent is Rhys Priestland of the Scarlets, but even Biggar's fiercest critics – and there are plenty who claim he is little more than a one-dimensional kicker – would not deny the Ospreys' form at the end of last season and the beginning of this has been the most compelling.

"It's difficult when everyone's got a different opinion of what they want in a fly-half," says Biggar, who has won 10 caps since 2008. "It was disappointing not being picked for the summer tour, there's no getting away from it. But I think it is all open now, every position in any country is up for grabs. Rhys is a fabulous player and he fits into the game plan nicely for Wales. They've had a good 12 months [including a Grand Slam] and Rhys has been the 10. It's made me more determined and really put some fire in my belly to go on and reclaim a place in the squad and push from there."

In truth, fire in the belly has never been the problem. Ice in the veins? Oh yes. Holley tells a story of the Ospreys when he, fellow coach Lyn Jones (now at London Welsh) and director Mike Cuddy were in the coaches' room and the 16-year-old Biggar knocked on the door. "Dan said: 'I've had an offer to go to Harlequins. I expect you might have heard, but I see my future at the Ospreys and I just wanted you to know.' And he shut the door again. We just looked at each other and smiled."

That self-confidence, Holley admits, often strayed into "petulance" – and Holley worked with Biggar to reduce it. "I'd show him clips of his behaviour being detrimental to the team and to people's opinions of him, including referees," Holley recalls. "Stuff like big hand gestures when things went against him. I'm pleased to say, watching from a distance now, those incidents are non-existent."

Biggar, whose contract is up next year, turned down a tentative approach from Racing Metro in France last season. When he emerged for the Ospreys it was alongside six British Lions backs in Shane Williams, Lee Byrne, Hook, Mike Phillips, Gavin Henson and Tommy Bowe.

The £3.5m Welsh regional salary cap, and big wages elsewhere, have drained the Ospreys' backline, leaving new faces Ashley Beck, Eli Walker and Hanno Dirksen to make their mark. But the pack is mostly intact, and was described by one TV pundit last week as the best in Europe. The Ospreys have won their last four matches including a bonus-point start to the Heineken Cup against Treviso nine days ago. It should be a mighty collision with the Tigers.

Biggar works with Wales's kicking coach Neil Jenkins every week, but has he won over Rob Howley, who will be in charge for the first two autumn internationals? "We've spoken over the last couple of years about the mix of his [Biggar's] game," Howley told the Rugby Nation radio show. "We know all about his kicking prowess but it's pleasing to see his running game. We watched against Munster [a 30-15 win three weeks ago] when he played very well and he's carried on that form. When we go to Poland [for training next week] we'll see the number ones in their regions coming together and what they're like in that highly competitive environment. Players react in many different ways."

It sounded like a lingering question over temperament. Meanwhile Biggar says he admires today's opposite number – Leicester's Toby Flood – for being "an honest bloke. I like that about a person. I think that's how he plays the game, he backs himself and he's a real dictator on the field. I'm really looking forward to playing him on Sunday".

In the past two years no fewer than six Wales/British & Irish Lions backs have left Ospreys, while the forwards have stayed fairly constant.

The Ospreys who flew away

Ospreys team v Leicester

23 January 2010

Lee Byrne; Tommy Bowe, Andrew Bishop, James Hook, Shane Williams; Dan Biggar, Ricky Januarie; Paul James, Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Jonathan Thomas, Jerry Collins, Ryan Jones, Marty Holah.

Since departed

Byrne (Wales full-back) to Clermont Auvergne; Bowe (Ireland wing) to Ulster; Hook (Wales utility back) to Perpignan; Sonny Parker (Wales centre) to London Welsh; Gavin Henson (Wales utility back) to Saracens/Toulon/Cardiff Blues/London Welsh; Williams (Wales wing) to Japan; Nikki Walker (Scotland wing) to Worcester; Mike Phillips (Wales scrum-half) to Bayonne; Januarie (South Africa scrum-half) to Lyon; James (Wales prop) to Bath; Huw Bennett (Wales hooker) to Lyon; Collins (New Zealand flanker) to Japan; Holah (New Zealand flanker) to Waikato.

Ospreys team v Leicester

21 October 2012

Richard Fussell; Hanno Dirksen, Andrew Bishop, Ashley Beck, Eli Walker; Dan Biggar, Kahn Fotuali'i; Ryan Bevington, Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Ian Evans, Ryan Jones, Jonathan Thomas, Justin Tipuric.

Hugh Godwin


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk