As he counts down to the huge pool clash with Australia and international retirement, Wales fly-half Dan Biggar reflects on standout moments from his illustrious career
Fly-half Dan Biggar will this weekend win cap number 111 for Wales – fourth in his country’s all-time list – as they face a monumental Rugby World Cup Pool C match against Australia.
The two-time Lions tourist made his Test debut against Canada in 2008 and is playing in his third World Cup. Just weeks away from his 34rd birthday, Biggar will bring the curtain down on his Wales career after this tournament. He will retire as one of the greats.
Rugby World spoke to Biggar recently to get his thoughts on some of the standout memories of his career. Here’s what he had to say…
WALES DEBUT, 2008
“I remember the thrill of being announced in the Welsh squad and getting into camp. They put me on the bench against Canada and Hooky (James Hook) went down after 20 minutes. I was warming up behind the posts and that was the best thing for me because I was thrown into the action, with no time to get nervous.
“I missed my first two conversions, which were on the touchline, but got a straightforward penalty in the second half – that was a big moment, to score your first points. Near the end I threw an interception pass, so it was a mixed bag but more good than bad.
“I was really pleased to get a win (34-13, Biggar kicked nine points). The only disappointment was that we wore yellow shirts because you dream of making your debut in the red of Wales. It was a special day and I like to think my hairstyle has improved slightly. I’ve invested in a better barber since 2008!”
COMING OF AGE, 2012
“This is me and Scott Baldwin celebrating Ospreys’ Pro12 final win at the RDS. That season I played some of my best rugby and this was a pivotal match for me because I knocked over a touchline kick with two minutes to go to beat Leinster (31-30), probably the best club team of the modern era. It felt like a big moment, a coming of age.
“I kicked really well in that match. Shane Williams scored at the end and it was a tough conversion. I remember standing over the kick thinking this is a huge opportunity and moment for me individually. As soon as I hit it, I knew it had a chance. I was pretty glad to see the ball sail through.”
PERFECT DAY, 2013
“If you’re going to pick an occasion, result, performance from my career, it’s very difficult to beat this day in 2013. Wales-England, a Grand Slam decider (for England), I’ve never seen Cardiff like it. I’ve never seen the stadium like it. During the anthems the band stopped playing halfway through and forget the game, that minute and a half for a lot of us was probably the best moment of our careers.
“So for me the occasion was as good as the result (30-3). It was my first Six Nations title and you always remember your first a bit more.
“The security staff for the family room can be a bit funny; if you’ve got two or three more people they won’t let them in. But that day you could have dragged half of Cardiff in and they wouldn’t have cared! It was the perfect day.”
MOMENTOUS KICK, 2015
“The biggest kick I’ve ever taken (to defeat England at the 2015 World Cup), given how far out it was and what was on the line. The match had been hyped up beyond belief and this game put me on the map in world rugby. My life changed after this game. I was a lot more recognised, more in the limelight.
“For the kick, I had absolutely no doubt in my mind. I just grabbed the tee off Neil Jenkins because my confidence was sky-high. And I always remember the conversion before that; I was really glad Gareth Davies scored under the sticks so I could knock it over.
“That game required a lot of grit and resolve and character as we had a lot of injuries. That kick helped embody the performance and our style of play – it was what we needed that day.”
A WINNING LION, 2017
“This was the Tuesday before the first (NZ v Lions) Test. Obviously you’re disappointed when you’re named in the Tuesday side. I was up against Johnny (Sexton) and Owen (Farrell), so there was no pressure on me here. It was a really enjoyable game, we beat the Chiefs 34-6, Jack Nowell scored a brilliant length-of-the-field try. My sister and her husband came over for that game, it was my first win in a Lions shirt as well. It was a really cool experience.
“I felt a bit lucky to go on the tour because in that year’s Six Nations my form had dropped off a tiny bit. But then on the tour I played really good rugby and possibly merited being in the (Test) mix. But Johnny and Owen were in their prime then.”
GRAND SLAM FAMILY, 2019
“My wife Alex and son James with me after our 2019 Grand Slam. Ireland kept the roof open, trying to gain an advantage, and it chucked it down all day. We hadn’t actually played that well in the tournament but we showed so much courage and determination. And that’s what it’s all about really. Gats (Warren Gatland) has always made a huge thing about family, so it’s important they get a glimpse of the good times as well.
“My wife was devastated, she’d done her hair and it belted it down. We had a function afterwards and she was absolutely soaked through! This photo is framed in our house and it’s exactly the reason why you put yourself through what we did this summer. There’s no point in doing it if you can’t enjoy it. It was a special day, especially as it was my first title since James had been born.”
FASTEST DROP-GOAL, 2019
“This is the quickest drop-goal in World Cup history (35 seconds), which is a nice record to have. During the walk-through that day, Shaun Edwards (defence coach) put his arm around me and said, ‘Tell you what Biggsy, a couple of drop-goals wouldn’t go amiss today.’ So that was in my mind and I did about 20 drop-goals in the warm-up just to get a feel for it.
“Come the match, we kicked off to Australia and counter-rucked. We weren’t particularly organised, the shape that we were in, but the ball came back and I thought, ‘This is a great opportunity, pretty central’ and I knocked it over. It set a good tone for us early doors. As I ran back I thought about looking up to the coaches’ box for Shaun, but you don’t normally get much praise off Shaun, so I’m not sure he’d have been giving me a thumbs-up anyway!”
DIGGING IN, 2021
“Tackling Nemani Nadolo in the East Midlands derby. I twisted my knee with 15 minutes to go and we’d used all our subs up, so I hobbled round the pitch and managed to get through a bit of work. For that 15 minutes I was on with a dodgy knee, they tried to run over the top of me every chance they had! And I made a tap tackle on Jasper Wiese where I took a big boot to my face. So I was in the wars that day.
“A lot of the games I remember are ones where you roll your sleeves up and win because of your character and determination. This was one of those. At the end I kicked the ball off with my left foot rather than my right because I couldn’t bend my right leg.
“My mum passed away a couple of weeks after this game. She was in hospital and when I phoned her and she asked about the game, she was really happy when I said we won and I got Man of the Match. So this game is quite vivid for me.”
WORKING WITH JENKS, 2021
“I was 15 when I started working with Neil Jenkins. I wouldn’t have had the career I’ve had without Jenks constantly pushing me, constantly striving for excellence. Not letting me take the easy option of finishing a session short or taking a day off. He’s an all-round brilliant guy, incredibly popular with the team. To show how much he means to me, I gave him my 100th Test jersey because without him I wouldn’t be where I am now.
“He’s not a person you go to if you want an arm around your shoulder. He’s to the point and you know he’s doing it for the right reasons. We’ve had quite a few bust-ups over the years, arguing back and forth on the training pitch! But what’s brilliant is that we can flare up with each other and ten minutes later we’re laughing and joking.”
SAD ENDING, 2021
“My 2021 Lions tour ended after an impact injury, de Allende’s knee on my shin, early in the third Test. Here I’m walking off and you can see my disappointment, knowing that whatever the result to come, this was how it was going to end for me. I felt helpless, unable to do anything. It was a sad way to end something special. I sat on the bench and it was hard to focus on the game because you feel you’ve let people down.
“Putting that Lions jersey on is ridiculously special. But it didn’t feel like a Lions tour. A Lions tour is going out for dinner and drinks midweek, with Lions fans all around the city. Whereas because of Covid we were restricted. You’d be in the hotel and play the odd round of golf.”
SOARING WITH SAINTS, 2021
“Professionally, Northampton was the best four-and-a-half years of my career. I became a better player than I had been in the previous ten years. I needed a change. It was perfect for me because I went into a young team who were thriving every day. I didn’t go in there feeling like I was a 30-year-old international, I felt like a 20-year-old trying to prove myself again.
“Chris Boyd and Sam Vesty were perfect for me in terms of developing the way we played, moving the ball and having the licence to express yourself.
“I’m very much in debt to Northampton for helping me improve. They had first tried to sign me when I was 16 or 17; I stayed in Wales but I used that interest to get a pay rise on my very small contract at Ospreys. So I’ve got a lot to be grateful to Northampton for!”
MAGIC HUNDRED, 2022
“Me and Foxy (Jonathan Davies) after the win (20-17) against Scotland – the day we both won our 100th Test cap. We’d lost to Ireland quite badly the week before and again, this was a performance full of grit and determination. Scotland had just beaten England and everyone was talking them up. We rolled our sleeves up, turned the game into a bit of a scrap, embodying what I wanted the team to be.
“It was brilliant sharing it with Foxy as we’ve played so much rugby together. He had been stuck in the nineties for caps for a while, so to share the day with him was really special.”
CAPTAIN DAN, 2022
“I captained Wales for the 2022 Six Nations. I’m looking for my family in this photo, they were in a box. It’s well documented how disappointing the day was (losing to Italy) but my wife said a really good thing to me: just think about yourself for a minute. You’ve just won your 100th cap for your country, you’ve joined a small group of players to do that.
“And you know what, I enjoyed the after-match. We went out for dinner in Cardiff with friends and it was just one of those where I thought I’ve got to do what’s right for me.”
ALLEZ TOULON, 2023
“Celebrating winning the Challenge Cup final against Glasgow. I came off early with a head knock but this was a brilliant occasion. We arrived in Dublin on a Tuesday, went out for beers and food that night, had a barbecue and a couple of beers on Wednesday, did a team run on Thursday, played and won (43-19) on Friday. The whole week was brilliant.
“For me in my first year to have helped the team win some silverware was important for me. I’d had a big move halfway through the season and wanted to give the team something to build on for the next couple of years. I’m playing in a team with the likes of Parisse, Kolbe and Ollivon and I’m loving my time in France.”
A version of this article appeared in the September 2023 issue of Rugby World
Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.