"Keep pressure off Biggar" begs Howley
January 31, 2013
Dan Biggar will start at fly-half for Wales © Getty Images
The Ospreys' No.10 will win only his 12th cap against Ireland at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday after pipping Perpignan's James Hook to the spot vacated by the injured Scarlets playmaker Rhys Priestland.
Howley is wary of the pressure that comes with wearing the Wales No.10 shirt, especially having seen Priestland have to seek professional help from a sports psychologist after struggling to deal with criticism of his performances in the autumn internationals, and is keen to prevent a repeat.
"I think it's important that he (Biggar) gets an opportunity and please can you keep the pressure off him," said Howley after announcing his side for the Cardiff opener. "All our 10s that have played the game, we've seen what's happened over recent times when the No.10 in Wales [has come under pressure] - and it's important that he's given the chance to develop.
"It's a big game for Dan. Obviously he understands that, but [because of] our Welsh culture and the way we talk about our 10s, it's important that Dan is given an opportunity and a chance and he'll certainly be given a chance from the Welsh management. He understands there's competition with James (Hook), but it's a big starting game for Dan and he's been exceptional this week."
Despite his limited international experience, Howley is confident that Biggar can step up to the challenge and said that he has progressed hugely in the past year. "He's a key player and we'll support [him] in everything which we ask him to do," said Howley. "Dan has matured over the last 12 months and he's been continually knocking on the door and we've given him honest feedback in terms of his game management and his running threat and his kicking game.
"And I think from Dan's perspective, I think turning up on Saturday being confident, going out and playing the game as he sees it [are important]. I think that he's got a pretty potent backline to try and get into the game and the game management, and when to bring them into the game and when to kick for field position and when to run. They're the questions that Dan has to answer on Saturday. But it's important that he gets the time."
© ESPN EMEA Ltd
"At full-time I could not see the field for people dancing in front of me." Tom Hamilton reflects on the Lions' defeat at the hands of the Brumbies in Canberra
To coincide with the Lions' tour of Australia, and in association with Dove Men+Care, we are asking you to vote for the greatest Lions moments of the professional era
"He's full of empathy...he calms the water...he's the Brumbies' saviour," was how a taxi driver in Canberra described Jake White." Tom Hamilton files his latest Tour Diary
"I am not alone in believing this series could well be decided by who can steal most ball after the tackle." John Taylor previews the Lions' first Test showdown with Australia