Rugby World Cup 2015

Rivals aim for the Biggar stage

Wallaby Bernard Foley (left) and Welsh Dragon Dan Biggar showing off their respective styles during the World Cup pool stage.
Wallaby Bernard Foley (above) and Welsh Dragon Dan Biggar showing off their respective styles during the World Cup pool stage.PHOTO: REUTERS
Wallaby Bernard Foley (left) and Welsh Dragon Dan Biggar showing off their respective styles during the World Cup pool stage.
Wallaby Bernard Foley and Welsh Dragon Dan Biggar (above) showing off their respective styles during the World Cup pool stage.PHOTO: REUTERS

Australian Foley and Welshman Biggar are the men who hold the key to topping Pool A

LONDON • Bernard Foley and Dan Biggar - who put England's Rugby World Cup hopes to the sword on successive weekends - go boot-to-boot today.

If Foley triumphs, then Australia will probably top Pool A, the toughest group. If Biggar stamps his authority, Wales will be the winners.

Both came into the tournament in the shadow of high-profile fly-halves such as Dan Carter, Frederic Michalak and Jonathan Sexton. But as the pool stage reaches its climax, they have taken the spotlight.

Biggar, who was not Wales' first- choice kicker one month ago, planted the first dagger into England with 23 points in Wales' 28-25 win over the hosts. It was the highest haul for a Welshman against England, no mean feat given kicking duties had been imposed on him with the injury to Leigh Halfpenny.

"If you concede penalties to them, then they will crucify you," said Wallabies defence coach Nathan Grey in a compliment to Biggar and Wales.

Foley, who like Biggar is 26, landed the killer blow to England's World Cup chances one week later - again in front of a packed Twickenham crowd. His 28 points, including two tries, eclipsed Matt Burke's 1998 mark of 21 points scored by an Australian against England.

BIGGER THINGS IN STORE

He has never had to work too hard on his technique. He is in a good place mentally and has all the parts needed for a good kicker.''

NEIL JENKINS, Wales' kicking coach, on the skills of Dan Biggar

"He's a real threat at the moment," was Wales coach Warren Gatland's assessment of the former sevens specialist.

Foley, who blossomed under Michael Cheika's tutelage at the New South Wales Waratahs and repaid the coach's faith with a stunning long-range penalty 30 seconds from full time to give them their first Super Rugby title last year, is a big fan of Biggar.

"The way he has controlled the Wales games, he has been outstanding and his goal-kicking speaks for itself," said Foley.

For Biggar, it has not been a seamless ride to international stardom after winning the first of his 37 caps aged just 19. But Gatland - never the easiest man to please - appreciates that his persistence has brought its rewards.

"Dan's competitive streak got him through a difficult period and saw him come back stronger and better," said the New Zealander.

Neil Jenkins, Wales' record Test points scorer with 1,049, believes Biggar belongs with the Carters and the Sextons.

"For me, Dan is not far from being one of the best fly-halves in the world," said the 44-year-old, who is the Welsh team's kicking coach.

"He has never had to work too hard on his technique. He is in a good place mentally and has all the parts needed for a good kicker."

Gatland, who orchestrated the British and Irish Lions' 2-1 Test series win over the Wallabies two years ago, said closing down Foley was imperative.

"His relationship with (scrum-half Will) Genia has developed," said Gatland. "A player we're conscious of will pose us problems. We will look to shut him down as much as we can, try to pressure him."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

POOL A: AUSTRALIA V WALES

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2015, with the headline 'Rivals aim for the Biggar stage'. Print Edition | Subscribe