On Wednesday, it was announced that the Welsh fly-half had agreed to leave Ospreys and move to the Aviva Premiership next season to link up with his Wales team-mate George North at Northampton Saints. After witnessing the East Midlanders’ limp display at Twickenham on Saturday, could Dan Biggar be Northampton’s knight in shining armour?
— Northampton Saints (@SaintsRugby) September 6, 2017
I often wonder whether one player can make such a difference to a team that his arrival or exit can change the fortunes of the entire club.
Louis Picamoles did that for Northampton last season and the one-man wrecking ball added a panache and destruction to Franklin’s Gardens that meant he was more often than not, double-teamed in order to prevent his apocalyptic charges.
Steel Was Lacking
With the Frenchman departing it was evident from the first game of the new season, played at the now traditional HQ double-header, that the steel he brought to the side was lacking.
Now of course, replacing a No.8 with a fly-half is hardly a like for like replacement in beef terms, yet the professionalism and hard-edged international competitiveness that Picamoles brought to the Saints is exactly what they will get with Biggar. He happens to be a pretty good ten to boot.
Stephen Myler has been a reliable servant to the former champions – steady without being flash, he has done little wrong yet not set the world alight. What his team mates are getting in the man from Morriston in Swansea, is a proven winner, a fighter and a player who can doesn’t know when he’s beaten.
It was this ‘lifeless’ element of Saturday’s performance that upset supporters most and left commentators talking about the ‘staleness’ of the coaching setup with one round gone.
Too Early To Make Valid Judgements
Yet signings such as these can make such a difference to the attitude of a team and although I don’t suggest that the back office staff wouldn’t benefit from a shake up, it’s probably too early to make any valid judgements.
What Biggar’s arrival will more likely do is allow Harry Malinder to concentrate more on finding whether centre or full-back is his best position. I suspect it’s the midfield where he can combine with Luther Burrell and link up with North and I daresay, he and North could alternate from time to time within games to allow the Welshman to utilise his talents on inside runs up the middle.
It’s true the departure of Biggar from the Welsh setup has caused some noses within the WRU to be put out of joint and the statement he made in announcing the move had the usual sub-texts within it. Yet no-one can deny him the chance to secure his future and to challenge himself in a new arena.
It may be a slightly awkward atmosphere in the dressing room throughout this season but the 28 year-old’s experience and hard-nosed professionalism will mean he is committed to the Ospreys’ cause right though to the end of this year.
What is clear is that having not done much business through the off-season, Northampton have made a very shrewd signing indeed.
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