Dan Biggar’s first cup final for Toulon came to an untimely and premature end in Dublin last night as the Welsh centurion succumbed to friendly fire, leaving the field in the second minute with another concerning HIA.
Nevertheless, the mercurial Lions fly-half was in fine spirits post-match and found the time to speak exclusively with Planet Rugby’s James While on the retirement of friends old and his new on life in Toulon.
Biggar’s move to Toulon surprised a few around the Premiership when he up sticks from Northampton Saints to join the legendary French club on the south coast, but since moving, he believes he’s discovered a renewed enthusiasm and is certainly enjoying his time there.
“Yep, I am thoroughly enjoying my time here,” Biggar said.
“We’ve moved in up the hill from the Parisse’s, and we’ve become great friends, and I’m really loving life down there. It’s a very rugby-centric place; really family-orientated, and a little bit different to the East Midlands.
“It’s a fantastic lifestyle. Toulon is a crazy rugby mad place which brings pressure also. At other clubs, people see you around town and maybe talk to you on match days, but here you’re a focal point of the community everywhere – it is just something that you, as a player, really have to experience to understand.
“When you play for this club, everyone thinks that you’re enjoying the fun side of it. They see the weather, see the lifestyle and things, and it’s just great, but when you become a Toulon man you also have a tonne of pressure to go with that honour as well.
“Tonight was a real positive move for Toulon. It’s a good step. We’re fully aware that we want to be competing for bigger honours, and for sure, we want to go and push on and really make a statement in, and now we’re in the Champions Cup next year. We know we’ve got a bit of work to do, and we will learn a lot from our journey this evening.”
Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric retirements
As Biggar’s teammate Sergio Parisse left the field to a standing ovation in his penultimate professional match, the Welsh fly-half admitted surprise that just before kick-off, he’d also received the news that his long-time Welsh international colleagues Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric had pulled the curtain down on their stellar international careers.
“I was sort of aware that that was coming as I’d had a head’s up from Alun Wyn earlier,” he noted.
“I think that people are too quick to say you’re done just because you’re on the wrong side of 30, I really don’t think age matters if you’re performing well. Those two guys have given a huge amount of service [to Welsh rugby], and they have the right to go out on their own terms.
“I spoke earlier to Alun before the announcement, and he basically said he’s simply not feeling 100% that he really wants to spend a bit more time at home with his family, and I think that’s to be commended for that. Similar for Justin, they’ve both had brilliant careers, and given the closeness of the World Cup, it couldn’t have been an easy decision.
“I’ll say to you now, it was an unbelievable honour to play with both, but especially Al. There’s no doubt he’s going to go down as one of the greats.
1⃣7⃣ Years 🙌
1⃣5⃣8⃣ Wales caps 🏴
1⃣2⃣ Lions caps 🦁
4⃣ RWC tournament appearances 🏆
5⃣ Six Nations titles 🏆
3⃣ Grand Slams 🧹
4⃣ Triple Crowns 👑
3⃣ Lions tours 🦁
🔝 Most capped Test player
Wales & Lions great Alun Wyn Jones has announced his retirement from Test rugby 🏴🐐 pic.twitter.com/DLSAsYYh7h
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) May 19, 2023
“He’s obviously decided that now’s the time, and he probably can’t quite do what he used to do – and those recovery times simply get longer and longer as you get older – I know, I understand that bit fully.
“I’ve been asked if I think that’s going to put a little bit more of a leadership pressure on me in a Welsh context- but no – I don’t change, and I’ll continue to run the backs as I have in the last ten years anyway.
“Even when I’m not the skipper, I know I am a key leader at 10, and people know I like to be heard!
“But the retirements have sent me a message, I’m not going to change my approach on things, but I’m looking to really concentrate on enjoying rugby and embrace it. Sometimes as pros, we forget to do that. Because to be fair, I don’t have that much time left in my career and one injury, and I could be at the same boat as them in no time at all. So yes, I want to embrace what I have right now, and it would be amazing to spend some time here on enjoyment and focus on winning some silverware from the foundations you’ve seen tonight.”
“In closing, I must also say a word about my Toulon teammate, Sergio Parisse,” Biggar added.
“Without question, he’s one of the greatest players I’ve ever played with or against, and undoubtedly one of the absolute all-time greats of rugby.
“When we first met at Toulon, my wife was at our social event, and she was more starstruck than I’ve ever seen her, grabbing selfies and so on!” he chuckled.
“Imagine if you put him in a New Zealand team or something like that, he would have thrived with that amount of ball with his peerless talent- it says something about his skills that he’s regarded as a great without having the exposure of an All Black or a Springbok.
“I know his body has been telling him it’s enough for a couple of years now, and for me to have had six, seven months of playing with him as both a teammate and a friend has been a huge honour for me, so it’s really sad to see him finally call it a day.
“Mind you, I just got up from the dressing room, and we’re talking about all signing a petition to get him to extend for another year as player-coach or something similar! We’ll see how that goes as I think he’s currently fancying a week in Milan chilling outside in a café drinking wine and coffee- but yes, absolutely- it’s been a genuine thrill to spend time with him but also, most importantly, to do that in a wonderful club in an absolutely rugby barmy town.
“I really am enjoying it massively.”
Planet Rugby thanks Dan for his time.