Rob Howley confident that Dan Biggar can be better in Wales' sacred No 10 role

Coach calls for patience as outside-half admits to feeling the pressure before Six Nations debut

There was a good deal for Rob Howley to address today, after naming the home starting XV for the opening 2013 Six Nations fixture in Cardiff on Saturday lunchtime: the reinstallation of the 2009 Lions front row now that Adam Jones is back in one piece; the selection of the uncapped Andrew Coombs, a former software salesman and until recently flanker, to plug one of the second-row gaps; the vote in confidence in the captain, Sam Warburton, who retains the open-side flanker jersey ahead of the in-form Justin Tipuric. Still, above all, as he prepared for the challenge of Ireland and the defence of the championship trophy, Wales' interim head coach was keeping his eye on the Biggar picture.

As a veteran of 69 caps for Wales in the No 9 jersey, Howley is well positioned to appreciate the pressure placed upon those playing alongside in the hallowed No 10 jersey. This time last year, on the back of a wonderful World Cup, Rhys Priestland was being hailed as the closest thing to Dan Carter outside of New Zealand and proceeded to show his class as Wales swept to the Six Nations title in Grand Slam style. In the autumn, as the Slammers slumped to a run of seven successive defeats and his form nosedived, the Scarlets fly-half became a target for abuse on Twitter and consulted a sports psychologist in an attempt to rebuild his confidence.

Now that Priestland is out of the Six Nations picture because of a snapped Achilles' heel, Howley has turned to Dan Biggar to spark the back line that produced the fireworks in last year's championship. The Ospreys outside-half has made 11 appearances for his country but has never played in the Six Nations before. His assured form for his region has won him the nod ahead of James Hook but Howley is wary of the 23-year-old suffering under the weight of the red No 10 jersey and all of the expectation that comes with following in the studmarks of Barry John, Phil Bennett and Co.

"It is important that Dan gets an opportunity, but please can you keep the pressure off him?" Howley said, appealing to the media assembled for Wales' team announcement. "It is important he is given the chance to develop.

"It's a big game for Dan. Obviously, he understands that, but our Welsh culture and the way we talk about our 10s, it is important that Dan is given an opportunity. He will certainly be given a chance by the Wales management."

He will also get the chance to concentrate fully on his orchestrating duties, with Leigh Halfpenny retaining place-kicking duties.

Asked whether he liked the media attention that came with the Welsh No 10 role, Biggar smiled and confessed: "When it's going well, yes... When it's not, no."

After pause for proper consideration, he continued: "It's part of the job title. It's a difficult position to be in. There's a lot of pressure and I could give you the routine of, 'You just get on with it and you don't pay any attention.' But, of course you do.

"You are aware of the Welsh 10 jersey and the expectation around it. As a player, when your team is playing well, it's a great position to be in but when things are not going quite as well as you would perhaps have liked, that's when you come under scrutiny a bit.

"As a 10, especially in Wales, that's part and parcel of the job. You have to take it as it comes but you also have to enjoy the high bits as well, when you are playing well and winning as a team.

"I don't think there is any hiding the fact that my international career has been a little bit stop-start. I hope to get it going this weekend."

Coombs' hard drive finally pays off

Andrew Coombs captained Wales at Under-18 level but could have been excused for thinking his hopes of becoming a senior international had passed when injuries curtailed his time as a development player with the Dragons and he ended up playing club rugby for Newport while earning a living as a computer software salesman.

On Saturday, though, the 28-year-old will run out at the Millennium Stadium in a Wales shirt, his form as a re-employed Dragon and a convert from flanker having earned him a place in the second row. "The way I look at it is that I've come through the right path, albeit a little late," Coombs said.

Simon Turnbull

Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again say analysts

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

Life and Style
fashion

British supermodel and hitmaker join forces to launch a 'huge song'

News
news

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announce they are set to welcome second child in spring

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually a challenging and nuanced title

Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Sport
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past