Criticism fuels Dan Biggar as he heads into Rugby World Cup as integral part of Wales' hopes

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The Welsh rugby goldfish bowl is like water off a duck’s back to Dan Biggar as he prepares for an impending Rugby World Cup challenge in Japan.

The Northampton fly-half has had his critics during a 73-cap Test career – most recently, former Wales wing JJ Williams claiming that Wales would not win a World Cup with Biggar at number 10.

But it says everything about his durability and match-controlling longevity that Biggar has arrived in Asia as an integral part of Wales’ global supremacy bid.

After playing key roles off the bench for much of last season, working in tandem with Gareth Anscombe, Biggar now steps forward to reclaim Wales’ number 10 shirt while Anscombe continues his recovery from a World Cup-ending knee injury.

And Biggar’s worth to Wales head coach Warren Gatland cannot be understated ahead of the tournament.

“Comments are comments,” Biggar said. “I have had it my whole career.

Biggar will be Wales' No10 in Japan with Gareth Anscombe injured.

Biggar will be Wales’ No10 in Japan with Gareth Anscombe injured.

“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 (Biggar thanked Williams for his comments after Wales beat England last month).

“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.”

Asked about big occasions and criticism firing him, Biggar added: “I’m competitive. I don’t mind that side of it – it’s part and parcel of the job.

“If you are not comfortable with that, and in the position I play in this country, then you’re probably in the wrong job. I don’t tend to put any pressure on myself, really.

“Certainly in the last few years since I’ve had a little boy and with my family, they are the most important thing to me, anyway.

“That’s been a big thing for me over the last 12-18 months, but I quite like having it (criticism) and performing on the big stage. Hopefully, I can keep delivering if called upon.”

Biggar proved an instant hit in his first season at Franklin’s Gardens, helping Saints reach the Gallagher Premiership play-offs last term.

“I’m not going to tell anyone else what to do because they have to do their own thing, but for me it (Northampton move) has been the best thing I’ve done,” he said.

“I had 10 fabulous years at the Ospreys and loved every minute of it, but for me getting outside of the goldfish bowl… with all due respect, you guys aren’t bothered if we play Newcastle or Sale away on a Friday night.

“Even though Northampton is a rugby-mad town, it’s quite nice to be outside the bubble there instead of Wales, where rugby is all year round.”

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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Giant England wing Joe Cokanasiga admits he still gets nervous ahead of big games

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England wing Joe Cokanasiga has revealed he feels nervous ahead of games against top opposition.

Cokanasiga’s power has made him a force on the international stage since making his debut against Japan eight caps ago and he has all the attributes to emerge as a star of the Rugby World Cup.

The 21-year-old Fijian-born giant has crossed five times in six starts, including against Wales and Australia, and has been hugely effective as a battering ram with superb pace.

But for all his formidable physical prowess, he suffers pre-match tension.

“I’m definitely impressed with how I’ve met each challenge. I get quite nervous playing against the big teams like Australia and Wales,” Cokanasiga said.

“Sometimes I question myself whether I can do it. But then once I’m in the game I’m back to my normal sense and just try to do what I do.

“Obviously I hate being nervous but it shows that you do care. But once that whistle goes, something just goes and you think ‘I’m here for a reason’, so just try to show it.

“The last 12 months have gone pretty quickly for me. I haven’t really had time to think about it and process everything but looking back it’s been a dream come true. Hopefully I can keep building on that.”

All five of Cokanasiga’s tries have been scored at Twickenham, but it is another aspect of playing for England that really excites the Bath juggernaut.

“Singing the national anthem tops that, it’s the best thing and a dream come true,” he said.

“I nearly cried on my first cap. Once you’re singing the national anthem you get a lot of emotions coming through and you feel like everything you’ve done has been worth it just for this moment.”

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Watch: Holders New Zealand arrive at Tokyo Narita Airport ahead of 2019 Rugby World Cup

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With the start of the 2019 Rugby World Cup just 10 days away, defending Champion New Zealand arrived at Narita International Airport, Japan, on Monday, right after the powerful typhoon Faxai passed through Tokyo area.

Currently ranked No.1 in the world, the All Blacks is set to play against  South Africa, Italy, Namibia and Canada in Pool B.

New Zealand have won back-to-back World Cups and will try in Japan to become the first team to win three in a row.

All Blacks opens its World Cup campaign against South Africa on September 21 in Yokohama


The 2019 tournament will be the first held in Asia and the first hosted by a nation outside the sport’s traditional top tier.









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