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Dan Biggar is man to lead Wales's backs, says Rob Howley

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: May 16, 2014

By Mark Orders

Dan Biggar and Dan Baugh.

Dan Biggar and Dan Baugh.

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HE enjoyed a spot of acting in school, so Dan Biggar is likely to be completely at ease with Rob Howley's prediction that he will be Wales's leading man behind the scrum in South Africa this summer.

The 24-year-old Osprey, who used to relish drama classes in his days at Gowerton Comprehensive, might have worn the No. 10 jersey during the 2013 Six Nations but he found himself back as understudy for much of this year's campaign, only getting the nod as a starter for the game against Scotland in the final round of matches.

But Howley believes Biggar has improved immensely on the pitch over the course of the past 12 months, culminating in the former Swansea man being named Pro12 players' player of the year.

He clearly has the respect of his peers and Wales's backs coach has now offered his own glowing endorsement ahead of the national trial match at the Liberty Stadium on May 30. "We'll be looking to Dan to lead the backs," said Howley.

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"He finished off the Six Nations campaign for us and for him to be nominated players' player of the year in the Rabo speaks volumes about his ability.

"I've certainly seen a huge difference in the last 12 months, with the Japan tour last summer helping him.

"I know Dan would have been disappointed not to have been involved with the British and Irish Lions, and Japan would have been tough for him, but he's come back and he's the incumbent No. 10.

"The thing I respect hugely about Dan is his mental toughness, on and off the field.

"He's still young — everyone sometimes forgets how young he is — and I'm looking forward to working with him again."

Howley is right to suggest Biggar has been better than ever this term, with the Morriston-born player working hard at his game and developing hugely as a game manager, knowing what button to press and when.

The stats show he also been more deadly than ever with the boot.

True, his points haul of 284 over the campaign may not have been as high as in 2009-10 (298), 2010-11 (318) or 2011-12 (329) but never before has Biggar achieved such a better strike rate per game.

He averaged 12.34 points every time he took the field, improving his previous best over a season of 11.75 in the Ospreys' last Pro12 title-winning year of 2011-12.

But, more than anything, it is his unbreakable mental strength that Wales seem to enjoy.

He is a player who seems to use every setback as an opportunity to come back stronger, giving the impression of having no understanding at all of the concept of self-pity.

Those of a flakier disposition might have cleared their prams of all their playthings had they found their reward for helping Wales to the Six Nations title in 2013 was to be sidelined for the opening game of the following season. But Biggar did no such thing and by the end of the autumn series he was back in the No. 10 jersey for the game with Australia.

Despite Howley backing him for the shirt, he still has work to do, with Warren Gatland also talking positively about James Hook during the announcement of the teams for the trial.

Owen Williams, Sam Davies and Matthew Morgan all have plenty to offer as well.

But with Priestland off limits, Biggar is at the front of queue.

Howley appears increasingly convinced by his merits, but the challenge now is to show Gatland why the Ospreys value him so highly.

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