Dan Biggar has coped with a lot of criticism and analysis during his 11-year career as a Wales fly-half.
After all, the role is arguably the most high profile playing position in Wales sport when you consider the greats who have previously worn the 10 shirt.
But even Biggar must have been taken aback in August when former British and Irish Lions wing JJ Williams said Wales would not win a World Cup with the Northampton fly-half as the first-choice 10.
Williams’ comments were made after Gareth Anscombe was ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury in defeat by England at Twickenham.
Biggar responded by producing a man-of-the-match performance in the return victory in Cardiff six days later and afterwards thanked Williams for his motivating comments, obviously tongue-in-cheek.
“Comments are comments,” Biggar said.
“I have had it my whole career. I think there would be another ex-player calling for someone from Penclawdd to play number 10 next week!
“It really doesn’t bother me. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I actually quite enjoy those things as it gives me motivation.
“I meant it to be a bit tongue-in-cheek at the end of the England game.
“It was not so much the comments about me, but we had won 14 on the bounce prior to that England game,.
“It was our first game of a new season with lots of boys playing at Twickenham, which is not the easiest place to play anyway.
“It’s less about me – I couldn’t care less what he said about me – it was more the negative comment about the team after one difficult afternoon.”
After playing key roles off the bench for much of last season and working in tandem with Anscombe during the Grand Slam triumph and 14-match unbeaten run, Biggar now steps forward to reclaim Wales’ number 10 shirt.
Rhys Patchell is still recovering from the head knock picked up in the final warm-up match against Ireland in Dublin.
|Wales World Cup fixtures – Pool D|
|Mon, 23 Sept: Wales v Georgia, City of Toyota Stadium, Toyota City (11:15 BST)|
|Sun, 29 Sept: Wales v Australia, Toyota Stadium, Tokyo (08:45 BST)|
|Wed, 9 Oct: Wales v Fiji, Oita Stadium, Oita (10:45 BST)|
|Sun, 13 Oct: Wales v Uruguay, Kumamoto Prefectural Athletic Stadium, Kumamoto City (09:15 BST)|
With Gatland only picking two specialist fly-halves, Biggar will be vital and he has vowed to continue to confound the critics in his second World Cup.
“I’m competitive. I don’t mind that side of it – it’s part and parcel of the job,” he said.
“If you are not comfortable with that, and in the position I play in this country, you’re probably in the wrong job! I don’t tend to put any pressure on myself.
“I quite like having it (criticism) and performing on the big stage. Hopefully, I can keep delivering if called upon.
“Early on in my career it was tough because it affected me, my family and friends.
“You don’t know how to take it because all of a sudden you’ve come from nowhere to being in the public eye and being criticised.
“My career has always been like that and in the position I’m in you have to expect it to be up and down.
“You’re never going to please everyone, but I’m happy in myself and in life and the experience I’ve had playing in this shirt for a decade has served me very well.”
Biggar has been part of Six Nations and Grand Slam winning sides, was a British and Irish Lions tourist in New Zealand in 2017 and most famously kicked the crucial penalty in the 2015 World Cup triumph over England at Twickenham.
The 29-year-old has never fitted the mould of the classical running Wales fly-halves of bygone eras such as Barry John, Phil Bennett or Jonathan Davies.
But he has carved out his own successful career and vowed not to change his style.
“I’m aware everyone will have the person they prefer to play,” said Biggar.
“I’ve always stuck to what I’ve done well in my career. I’ve been a competitor, kicked well, and been strong defensively.
“I’ve tried to work on everything else and hopefully we can get to the World Cup, score some tries, and play some running rugby as well.”
Gatland handed Biggar a Wales debut during his first year at the helm in 2008 and the Saints number 10 has no doubt about the New Zealander’s impact.
“What Warren has done since he has been here is instil a belief, more than anything,” Biggar added.
“When we go into games against England or Australia, South Africa, we are always going with the mindset that we are going to win, whereas before it was more in hope rather than expectation.
“We are fully aware we are up against some big teams – just in our pool, let alone the latter stages of the tournament – and it’s about making sure the belief is right.
“If we can get out of the pool first, the other seven teams in the quarter-finals will not want to play us.”
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All pictures via Huw Evans Images.
Article courtesy of BBC Sport