Dan Biggar will refuse to accept backhanded compliments as the limit of his powers as he chases “another dimension” to extend still further a glittering Test career.
The Wales fly-half credits his 2018 move to Northampton for expanding his playmaking horizons, but even now, after 13 years at the top, the 30-year-old is far from finished.
What the detractors see as faults, Biggar considers the bedrock of a relentless 83-cap international career.
Align Saints boss Chris Boyd’s fluent attacking influence with the tactical acumen forged right through Warren Gatland’s Wales reign, and Biggar can pivot towards yet more glory with both his nation and the British and Irish Lions.
Before any of that though, struggling Saints face the defining game of a turbulent season with Sunday’s Champions Cup quarter-final trip to Exeter.
Second in the Premiership after 10 matches, six defeats since the league resumption have plummeted Saints to seventh. After a lockdown and a restart to forget, Biggar will agitate for change at Sandy Park this weekend.
“What I’ve been good at through my career is what I hope will put me right up there with some of the best in my position,” Biggar told the PA news agency.
“The other parts are about fine tuning, and that’s something I’ve had to work a little bit harder at. But also it just adds another dimension to me as well.
“Whenever people say ‘oh he’s pragmatic and relies too much on a kicking game’, I always take that as a real compliment. I don’t see why people would see that as a negative.
“If I can improve little bits and little areas elsewhere, then that’s what I think will make a big difference for me.
“It’s been really good for me these couple of years at Saints. I’m really, really glad I made the decision, because I think I would have regretted not experiencing something different in my career, and not testing myself.
“It hasn’t been easy by any stretch, but the best things normally aren’t easy and you have to work for them. So I’m pleased I made the decision to chance my arm and really test myself up here.
“I’m obviously one of the fortunate ones to have accumulated enough caps to play outside of Wales, and again that probably made the decision a little bit easier.
“Had I been on 30 caps it would have probably been a different decision at the time. But I feel like that policy has allowed me to come here and flourish.
“The restart has been difficult for us, there’s no doubt about it. But there’s nobody going to come to the rescue.
“This weekend represents such a good challenge for us to really have a go at a different competition. The pressure is off, we can go down, play our game and try to do something pretty special.
“Chris (Boyd) has been great for us, because his outlook on life, rugby, everything – everything is pretty level headed, it’s neither one extreme nor the other which is pretty good for a group which perhaps is a little bit short of confidence.
“So it is tough, but now it’s about making sure we go out there and puff our chests out a little bit.
“If we go down there looking up to those guys and thinking these are the league leaders here, etcetera, etcetera – to be honest I’d rather not go down there.”
Wales will host Scotland on October 31 to close their coronavirus-delayed Six Nations campaign, before stepping straight into November’s Autumn Nations Cup.
The Lions will tour South Africa next summer, with Biggar clearly in the selection running, having stood up strongly in New Zealand in 2017.
Biggar’s status endures as one of his ex-Wales boss and Lions coach Gatland’s most trusted lieutenants, but the combative playmaker knows that will count for precious little ahead of another hectic year.
“Hopefully I’ll get back in with Wales in the autumn, but at the moment that feels like an eternity away,” said Biggar.
“I’d love to be involved there for a few more years and as long as I feel I can still add value then I’ll be sticking about.
“But if I’m totally, totally honest, the priority at the minute is making sure we turn the corner a bit here first, because that feeds into everything.
“Warren (Gatland) has given me pretty much all of my 83 caps, so obviously I owe a huge amount to him.
“But I also feel that’s quite a big compliment to me as well, because Warren isn’t the easiest taskmaster, he’s not the easiest to please and you have to make sure you offer a lot to Warren to earn selection. So I suppose that’s quite a big tap on the back for me, really.
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) February 1, 2020
“He’s been really good, he’s given a lot of confidence in terms of that middle part of my career where I really started to establish myself as the number one.
“There was a lot of confidence towards me from that coaching group in particular. I’ll always be really grateful to Warren.
“I feel I’ve definitely improved since coming to Northampton though, because of the way we play and because of the way the coaches want the players to play and express themselves.
“Chris (Boyd) tells us never to worry about making positive mistakes. In fact he’s saying he’d almost be harder on me from us shutting up shop.
“It’s definitely gutsy from Chris. We know we’ve got the coach’s confidence to express ourselves and be positive, and now we want to go and repay that.”