Another step in an illustrious career?
Top pro and Wales stalwart Dan Biggar has been given the honour of being Wales’ new captain for this year’s Six Nations. Will it be another step in an illustrious career for this ten from Morriston in Swansea? Regular captain Alun Wyn-Jones is out injured. As are other captaincy options: Ken Owens, Justin Tipuric and Jonathan Davies.
Adam Beard has been given the vice-captaincy. Ellis Jenkins, captain for the Autumn series, is in the squad but Wayne Pivac has gone with Biggar. Jenkins did a satisfactory job in Autumn but the coach has gone with the vastly experienced Northampton fly-half. Biggar is closing in on the magic, ton of caps for his country. What a way to do it, as Wales’ new captain.
First Choice Ten?
To the inevitable questions. For some, Biggar isn’t necessarily Wales’ first choice outside-half. A fully-fit and firing Gareth Anscombe would be the preferred selection for some Welsh supporters, given the increased running threat that Anscombe supplies. Others might like Pivac to go with the younger Callum Sheedy. A smaller section of fans still thinks canny Rhys Priestland has something to offer Wales.
Whatever the case, Biggar won’t be losing any sleep over what the fans think. That’s part of his gift, mental resilience. You don’t get too near a hundred caps without having thick skin. Further strengths are his kicking out of hand and from the tee, his ability under the high ball (in defence and in attack), his willingness to put his body on the line, his wealth of experience and his intelligence. For evidence of his smarts, check out his humility and how thoughtful he is when speaking to the media
If we’re going to be hyper-critical: his haranguing of the referee can be counter-productive (it is occasionally the right thing to try and get answers from the match official), sometimes his attacking play is more one-dimensional or telegraphed than say a Finn Russell, Beauden Barrett, Quade Cooper, Marcus Smith or Romain Ntamack, and every now and then he is guilty of a defensive lapse.
Biggar is more akin to his contemporaries, Owen Farrell and Jonny Sexton, especially the mentally and physically tough, Farrell. Sexton, if anything, is a hybrid of the rock-solid fly-half, and the flair-players mentioned earlier.
The Making of a player?
For some captaincy is the making of a player. They thrive with the extra responsibility it garners. For some, it is a burden. Sam Warburton was an excellent Wales and British and Irish Lions captain. However, he struggled with it at times. Captaincy can lead to a drop in performance levels. Will Wales’ new captain’s performances drop, or go to the next level? It will be interesting to see. If Biggar succeeds, then he could be a longer-term option. It is also worth considering that the role of captaincy isn’t the big deal that fans make it out to be. The vice-captain and senior-player groups are available to share the load on Biggar’s shoulders.
The Six Nations is only weeks away. Wales are a hard side to assess right now. They have injuries to key personnel but they can still put a strong side out. I see some narrow point margins coming with games involving Wales going either way. Expect nails to be bitten down to the quick.
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