It should come as no surprise to hear that Dan Biggar’s name has been doing the rounds on the rumour mill. The Ospreys’ golden boy was arguably the most in-form of the outside halves on the Lions tour, despite Gatland opting for the Sexton-Farrell axis for the tests. He didn’t have a bad performance and overall, the Lions series gave him a platform to show the world quite what a solid, consistent player he is.
Biggar looks east across the Beacons
It’s emerged that Northampton Saints are eager to sign the Welshman and poach him for the season after next. The salary and fee involved is likely to dwarf his Dual Contract currently paid by the club and WRU. Despite the Scarlets beating favourites Leinster to the title, this could be a bad sign for the Welsh regions in general. It follows a list of Welsh players stolen away by English and French clubs, and a general inability to keep in-prime talent within Wales – Liam Williams the most recent. With the World Cup coming to Japan in two years, and the Ospreys man presumably a crucial cog in Welsh ambitions, it leaves you wondering whether his departure from home turf will have detrimental long term effects.
But who can really blame him for leaving?
At 27, Biggar is coming into his prime and a decade of service for the Swansea-based side more than deserves the chance to move away and sample new climes. And although the Saints have had a mixed bag of performances since their first league win in 2014, they still have the quality, attraction and ambition to become a force in English and European rugby. He’ll likely come in to begin replacing veteran Stephen Myler, and keeping the versatile up-and-comer Harry Mallinder in his favoured Centre position.
What does it mean for the Ospreys?
For now the Ospreys retain his service for another season. In terms of replacing Biggar the obvious choice is clearly Sam Davies. The youngster has enjoyed a decent season and is neck and neck with rival Patchell to claim that coveted second-string flyhalf spot. Next season should go some way to settling that very healthy dispute. Without Biggar, the Ospreys may suffer temporarily but Sam Davies needs a chance to settle into regular rugby and developing his own playing style as well as key relationships with teammates; Webb in particular.
What does it mean for Welsh World Cup hopes?
Much the same as with the Ospreys, a matured Sam Davies could provide a dynamic and flatter distribution to Biggar’s depth for the 2019 World Cup in Japan. In that regard, the versatility and depth in the outside half position is good, healthy news for the Welsh camp. Davies brought much verve to the backline during the 6N, particularly against Italy, and held up fairly well against the South Pacific teams. Whether rival and Scarlets’ Rhys Patchell is better largely falls along the Ammanford line, but the competition is healthy. For years, Biggar and Davies have been master and apprentice, but in a season’s time, the apprentice must make the trade his own.
What does it mean for Dan himself?
As with the competition between the youngsters, Biggar would also benefit from having some talent snapping at his heels for that first team spot. Unless a fantastic Welsh flyhalf emerges in the next two years, Biggar should realistically expect to take one of the flyhalf spots for the World Cup. His experience as a Lion and as a World Cup Welshman (I’ll just leave this here…) make him invaluable to any club regardless of form. He can benefit from playing with and against a higher calibre of players in the English and European leagues – that is to say, a wider catchment of NH and SH talent. Perhaps that is the flyhalf formula needed for a World Cup Welsh team in two years time – One veteran with cosmopolitan experience, and another fresh from being schooled in the ways of the Welsh outside half.
Of course, playing away from the homeland can have its own personal effects. Biggar is a family man first and foremost, but with that £6.70 set to be abolished, Dan can rest easy and enjoy his time abroad.