Dan Biggar is relishing another opportunity to play against his old rival Johnny Sexton, when Wales take on Ireland in their opening Guinness Six Nations fixture.
Wales will begin the defence of their Six Nations title against Ireland in Dublin, where old foes Biggar and Sexton will captain their countries, if both skippers are fit.
The two fly-halves have played against each other on plenty of occasions, but they have spent time on the same team as well, during the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand in 2017.
Biggar was speaking at the Six Nations virtual media launch and expressed the amount of respect he has for Sexton, despite the unfriendly demeanour the two have towards one another when they are on the pitch.
Dan Biggar on his rivalry with Johnny Sexton.
“Whenever I get asked who has been the most difficult person to play against over the last 10 or 12 years, there’s no doubt that Johnny’s name would probably be very, very near the top,” Biggar said.
“He’s very similar to myself really in terms of the drive, the will to win, scrapping for absolutely everything on the field and it’s testament to him really, how well he’s managed to handle himself and keep his form going into his mid-thirties now, or late-thirties. I don’t think anybody is 100 per cent sure about how old he is.
“He’s going really strong and I’ve got a huge amount of time for Johnny. I said earlier on in a previous question that there’s probably very few people more deserving of a 100 caps in international rugby than Johnny.
“So it’s always a great challenge playing against Johnny. We may not be the best of friends for 80 minutes on the pitch, we’re narky and sort of at each other a bit, but away from the field he’s an absolute pleasure to deal with and I’ve a huge amount of time for him.”
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Wayne Pivac praises Tadhg Beirne’s rise.
Biggar and Sexton aren’t the only two in the Welsh and Irish camps to be well-acquainted with one another, as Wales head coach Wayne Pivac and Tadhg Beirne have also spent plenty of time together.
Beirne joined the Scarlets in 2016 while Pivac was head coach of the Welsh region, having been released by his native province Leinster.
The versatile forward soon became a key player for the Scarlets, as he played a major role in the side’s Pro12 triumph in 2017, before he returned to Ireland with Munster to chase a career in international rugby.
The return home has worked out very well for Beirne, as he has gone on to win 25 caps for Ireland and played for the British and Irish Lions on last summer’s tour of South Africa.
Although Pivac will be hoping Beirne doesn’t have a great game against Wales on Saturday week, the New Zealander admitted that he was delighted to see the Kildare man progress so much.
“He was a great signing. He performed above what was expected at the time. He’s a very good athlete, he’s a very tough, strong character. What I liked about Tadhg was his enthusiasm and his passion for the game,” Pivac said.
“He had a lot of questions. He was always asking why we were doing things and challenging. I found that was great because he didn’t want to go out on the field without understanding what was required of him and why he was doing things.
“Once we had that down he just went for it. It’s been great watching his progress. I was very pleased that he was selected for Ireland.
“I was obviously disappointed from a Scarlets point of view but certainly it’s great to see any player that you’ve coached at club level go on and obtain the greatest honour, which is to put on the jersey of their country.”