The veteran No 10 will retire from international duty after the Rugby World Cup

August saw Dan Biggar announce his impending retirement after the Rugby World Cup in 2023. He will finish on a minimum of 109 Test caps and bring to an end what has been a dream career for Wales and the British and Irish Lions.

As with all outside halves who have played in the professional era in Wales, his career will largely be judged by those supporters whose rugby education began in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Where the 10-12 channel had more gaps than a Brexit manifesto and defenders were less connected than a Kibbutz.

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For Welsh tens like Neil Jenkins, Stephen Jones and Dan Biggar, the wide-open plains, where tens could once roam wild, no longer existed. Instead, replaced by a claustrophobic channel clogged by ultra-athletic openside flankers and inside centres who looked more like tighthead locks.

It is this new rugby environment in which brilliant Biggar has truly excelled. His line kicking and tactical kicking have been exceptional throughout all his career. And his kicks from the tee would have been far greater in number had he not played in the same squad as the immaculately booted Leigh Halfpenny.

Biggar’s defence has also been right up there with the best – solid enough to play 12 should it have been required. At 6ft 2ish, Biggar has been one of those tens who can look directly into the eye of a legit back-row forward, and not have to raise his gaze too far up to go eyeball to eyeball with the majority of second rows.

It is no secret that at the Ospreys, Biggar was one of the few who would not only go face to face with Alun Wyn Jones, but throat to throat. Very few players who value their safety do that, let alone an outside half.

Biggar is also perhaps the greatest Welsh full-back that never was. His ability to kick, chase, then collect his own kicks is like no other ten that has ever played the game. That may seem like a big claim, and it is hard to prove given that no data exists on how many players kick and successfully claim that kick.

But from a purely anecdotal viewpoint, no ten has ever excelled in the air like he has. At times it seems like Biggar is throwing a boomerang, rather than kicking a rugby ball, such is his ability to regain possession. That combined with the relatively modern tactic of using a ten to drop deep on kick returns has made the rugby world realise that a ten who can ‘kick and collect’ is not just an optional extra, but a skill that should come as standard.

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But atop of all his skills, are his attitude and toughness. In a nuclear attack, only cockroaches and Dan Biggar would walk out from the toxic shadows. He is loved and loathed for all the same reasons as Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell.

They’re all competitive to the point of being obnoxious on the field and yet off it, are entirely pleasant. Biggar, like Sexton in particular, is often criticised for talking too much – especially at the referee. But he rarely crosses the line. And like all good debaters he takes it to the edge without ever getting ejected from the auditorium.

In truth, Biggar has a had a difficult ride during his career, especially in the public eye. Whilst Biggar was always the best option in Wales, by some distance, the jinky/steppy tens always caught the eye of many pundits – even when the data and stats said otherwise.

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It’s not just at Test level where brilliant Biggar hasn’t always been appreciated either. He occasionally found some guano being flung his way by Ospreys’ supporters in the early days.

You could argue that Biggar played his best rugby when he moved to Saints in 2018. Under Chris Boyd, and his Hurricanes blueprint, Biggar was allowed to become the player that he always was. Where his hands were allowed to flow as freely as his boot.

To watch Biggar play at Saints was to watch his triple-threat skillset (kick, pass, run) in full flow – where miss-passes met kicks that never did miss their target.

Now, at 33 years old, Biggar appears to have taken his final form. At Toulon, he already feels like a permanent fixture and is in the perfect position to replicate the post-Test career playing model that Jonny Wilkinson executed so well.

Still in his early thirties, Biggar has at least another four years at the top end, especially in a sport where pace at ten is no longer the key requirement. Just look at Morne Steyne, Stephen Myler and Jimmy Gopperth and the extended careers that have been afforded to them in a game that rewards a more sedentary role in the ten channel.

Brilliant Biggar is one of those players that most won’t appreciate until he’s gone. He is Wales’ best ten in the pro era, and by some distance. And it would be a shame if most supporters didn’t realise that until he becomes a pundit. If Wales achieve little else this Rugby World Cup, let the appreciation of Bigger be the thing that Wales do get right.

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