"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 Sports Media Ltd.
The tone was set early on in Dublin as a more clinical Ireland made England pay. All is not lost, however, argues Phil Vickery
Monday Maul takes in retirement talk, England reshuffles, France's unfair advantage and Scotland's communication breakdown
John Griffiths takes an analytical look at Week 3 of ESPN Scrum's Fantasy Rugby game - who should you have picked?
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt won the tactical battle and set his team on course for a shot at the Grand Slam. Tom Hamilton reports from Dublin