Thursday 25 December 2014

Video: Biggar sees weakness in Ireland's centre of excellence

Published 01/02/2013 | 05:00

31 January, 2013: Brian O'Driscoll arrives at Dublin Airport yesterday on the way to Cardiff for Ireland's opening Six Nations game against Wales tomorrow. Photo: Sportsfile

Welsh out-half Dan Biggar is hoping to smash Ireland's Six Nations hopes in Cardiff tomorrow – and he has eyes on grabbing a slice of his rival Jonathan Sexton's multi-million euro contract with Racing Metro.

And, while he respects the world record-breaking centre partnership of Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll, he suggests that their advanced age may be a factor his imposing Welsh backline could expose.

Biggar won the race to fill the mythical No 10 jersey for the Welsh, beating off competition from James Hook in the absence of the injured Rhys Priestland, with stand-in coach Rob Howley pleading with supporters to keep the pressure off the enigmatic 23-year-old.

However, Biggar, whose last-minute sideline conversion for Ospreys destroyed Leinster's Celtic League dreams in last May's RDS final, remains unbowed as he prepares for his joust with the favourite to take the Lions Test berth in Australia next summer.

"We had a poor autumn – there's no hiding away from it," says Biggar of his side's accumulating seven-game losing streak since winning the Grand Slam last term.

"But it's a new campaign with new strategies in place and it's something we are looking forward to, retaining the trophy.

"Leinster have been the stand-out team in Heineken Cup rugby the last three or four years. The spine of the Irish team contains a lot of Leinster players. And Munster have been right up there, Ulster also.

"We know an awful lot about each other. We have to stop them getting quick ball and presenting Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll with it on the front foot.

Good

"I could sit here all day and say how good a player Sexton is. I'm really looking forward to going up against him. I have played against him many times.

"He's right up there on top of his game at the minute and it's a real challenge and privilege to play against him when he's playing as well as he is.

"If he wants to give me a slice of his contract, I would be more than happy to accept!

"Look, he's a great player and he's got great players around him, which is always nice for a 10. It makes your job easier when you have got centres like D'Arcy and O'Driscoll outside you."

Biggar believes that disrupting the centre partnership of O'Driscoll and D'Arcy, permed together for a world record 49th time in international rugby, will be the key to maintaining Wales' run of three successive wins against the Irish.

"You look at the number of caps D'Arcy has had, a Lions tour, a Grand Slam he has won and three Heineken Cups, I don't think he has done badly. Leinster's strength is they have got D'Arcy and O'Driscoll.

"If O'Driscoll makes a mistake, you have got D'Arcy there to cover him or vice-versa so, whenever somebody asks me who is the most difficult opponent I have played against, my answer straight away would be it's those two as a combination.

"They know each other's game inside out. We're excited about the prospect of trying to break them down.

"They are obviously a little bit older now and hopefully we will expose that. But, as a partnership, you will do well to beat those two in the next 10 years."

Howley, who confirmed a surprise debut start for Dragons second-row Andrew Coombs, insists that his under-pressure side will not divert from their innate attacking traditions.

"The intention is to go for it this championship," says Warren Gatland's caretaker, who expressed his desire that the Millennium Stadium roof be closed ahead of today's discussions between the two squads.

"The speed of ball will depend on the conditions, but the focus of our game is ball in hand and put them under pressure with our passing game. We passed considerably more times than Ireland in the Aviva last year."

WALES (v Ireland) – L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, J Davies, J Roberts, G North; D Biggar, M Phillips; G Jenkins, M Rees, A Jones; A Coombs, I Evans; A Shingler, S Warburton (capt), T Faletau. Reps: K Owens, P James, C Mitchell, O Kohn, J Tipuric, L Williams, J Hook, S Williams.

Irish Independent

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