# 363, # 455, # 473, # 506, # 552, # 745 and now, finally, # 821.
Since 1950 more than 100 Welsh players have donned Lions Test shirts, but only six of them have been in the position that Welsh rugby idolizes foremost – the opening half.
This weekend it becomes seven.
Read more:Dan Biggar: Lions Test selection will be moving after my mom dies, however it turns out
Cliff Morgan, David Watkins, Barry John, Phil Bennett, Gareth Davies and Stephen Jones will have one more to welcome to their ranks.
For Dan Biggar, it’s been a long time coming.
20 years after his earliest memories of witnessing Lions from his childhood home in Gowerton, he will finally follow in the footsteps of the man he revered in 2001 – Brian O’Driscoll.
They may be different races when it comes to Lions.
Some players have burst into the spotlight that the Lions provide on first demand – O’Driscoll, Jamie Roberts, George North.
Others have to wait a little longer.
Biggar, in particular, had to bide his time.
Selected for the first time for his country in 2008, the young opener of the Ospreys was tipped for big things. The dynamism and determination that illuminated his career showed their first sparks at the age of 16.
“Dan had been approached by a few colleges with scholarships,” recalls former Ospreys coach Sean Holley. “I think one was Harlequins, another was Saracens.
“He came into our office, with Lyn Jones, myself and Mike Cuddy all sitting there, and said, ‘Look, you might have heard a few clubs approached me with scholarships.’
“‘But I’m here to tell you I’m not going anywhere, I’m going to be the next opener for the Ospreys and I’m going to play for Wales.’ That was when I was 16. Then, come in and do this alone.
“You knew the character you were getting.”
However, even on the international stage, he will have to wait his turn.
After a year of regular appearances after his first departure for his country, following Stephen Jones and James Hook’s tour of South Africa with the Lions, things have gone wrong for a while.
After a start in a fall 2010 international draw against Fiji where no one came out with any credit, Biggar moved away from Warren Gatland’s setup for more than a year before his next selection. test.
“I was with Wales in 2009 when they got their second and third caps in North America,” adds Holley.
“You thought he was going to be okay then.
“But I think there was this Welsh fly-half collective back then that whoever Warren was picking, they didn’t really hold the jersey long enough.
“Dan kind of missed that, but it got him to sit back in his club position.
“You think back to that time, he thrived as a leader in the Ospreys and won trophies. It made him a go-to man.”
The following spring, Biggar’s testing career finally took off as planned.
Rhys Priestland’s injury handed Biggar the starting jersey for the 2013 Six Nations Championship.
While the first 40 minutes were somewhat nervous, the nine rugby halves that followed saw Biggar help move the Welsh ship away from an eight-game losing streak towards retaining their crown on rugby’s most remarkable night. Welsh.
Of the Welsh XV who hit the wheels of the English chariot so conclusively and thoroughly, Biggar was the only starter not to receive a call for the Lions tour of Australia that summer.
He took it in his stride.
“I was probably playing for Rhys (Priestland) in the 2013 championship win and I wouldn’t have said I was in it with a scream but when you’re the only guy on the starting squad to miss , I guess you can feel it a bit, ”Biggar said in 2017.
But, despite this setback, he spent the next four years making the Welsh jersey his own.
“Shortly after 2013, they stayed with Dan at Test level and realized how much they depended on him, especially when Leigh Halfpenny was away,” Holley added.
“When there were question marks about his defense as a youngster, he answered all of those questions by becoming one of the best defensive flybacks in the game.
“His high ball qualities are second to none and he is playing as a second full back with the advent of the kicking game.
“Suddenly people realized that the modern game was not about a mercurial 10, but other things and Dan had them all.
Prior to 2017, he was the undisputed Welsh opener of choice and was ready to finally experience the Lions.
Even though Owen Farrell and Johnny Sexton were preferred for the Test series against the All Blacks, Biggar left New Zealand with a lot of credit in the bank.
Sam Warburton, the captain in 2013 and 2017, has said repeatedly that Biggar was the perfect tourist four years ago. He knows firsthand how far the opening half has come for that first Lions cap.
“I’m trying to take my Welsh hat off but I think Dan Biggar already has three Six Nations titles under his belt, a World Cup quarterfinal, a World Cup semi-final, a Lions tour under his belt. , has already won a PRO14 title, a brilliant goalscorer, “the former Wales openside said a few months ago when asked who his test 10 would be in 2021.
“Last year, he was statistically the best kicker in the world, excellent under high ball, excellent defensively, excellent player, competitive.
“On the 2017 tour, because he had two iconic players in their glory in Owen Farrell and Johnny Sexton, but he played amazingly. He was so miserable he had two icons in front of him.”
As Holley points out, Biggar did “a lot of favors” on this tour.
And just as he would have made the tour his sole focus after missing the event in 2013, he made a test cap victory the ultimate end in the four years from 2017 to now.
“I was happy to have played my part (in 2017) but sometimes you have to accept the facts,” Biggar told WalesOnline shortly before this year’s tour.
“It has become even more of a motivation and an ambition this time around to participate in this 23 test and it will be no different for anyone who gets on this plane.
“After being there the last time, for me, it’s an additional motivation.
“I feel a little different this time around.”
For some time now, Biggar has seemed like the right man for the job this time around. He looked like the kind of opening half you would want to face the Boks on their native soil.
But, in recent weeks, things have taken on a new meaning.
Throughout his career, Biggar has harnessed setbacks and disappointments as fuel to reach even higher heights.
Watching it all, Biggar’s mother Elizabeth was his biggest fan. From those memories from 2001 until now, she was the constant.
When she was taken to hospital earlier this year, she told Biggar to tour South Africa no matter what.
Sadly, Biggar lost his mother just before the tour in May. The selection for the Test team meant something else to the man who overcame so much to get here.
Speaking earlier this week, Biggar said: “It will be satisfying if I do it in terms of selection.
“It’s been a tough few months; I’m now focusing on the next few weeks, hoping to be as successful as possible to make it worth it.”
Of course, there is work to be done on the pitch, but when Biggar finally stops and looks back at how he got to this point, the overwhelming emotion should be one of pride.
“He didn’t look back,” Holley said.
“What made him criticize his lack of attacking ability or that he’s not a ‘Barry John’ or a ‘Phil Bennett’ is that he’s a ‘Dan Biggar’.
“He shone and people appreciated him for his personal traits.
“He does all the basics really well – kicks well, passes well, tackles well, catches well. All the little nuts and bolts that at the highest level need to be done.
“From an early age Dan would come into my office and have already looked at the opposition from the following week and listed the parts that he thought would work best.
“As an 18 year old, it’s an amazing thing to have.
“You’re looking at him now, he deserved it.”
It’s been a long journey, but # 821 certainly deserved it.
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