If the British & Irish Lions are to have any chance against the All Blacks this year they must find a pivot who can counter the ingenuity, skill and vision of Beauden Barrett.
Barrett has quickly succeeded in filling the supposed enormous void left when Dan Carter departed the All Blacks. Some folks — even New Zealanders — are already saying Barrett is as good as or even better than the maestro who for so long was the best No. 10 in world rugby.
However, all is not lost up north because a quality Six Nations tournament has shown after two rounds that there are able candidates who can comfortably wear the Lions’ No. 10 jersey and have the All Blacks second guessing.
England’s ability to win matches in the final 10 minutes stems from Eddie Jones’ adaptation of football’s tactical periodisation, a practice used by Jose Mourinho.
The prominent pivot so far has been Dan Biggar, and this is even after Wales failed to end England’s 16-match winning streak.
England coach Eddie Jones was right in saying that his team had used all their “get out of jail cards”, because Wales were the better side in Cardiff.
Among the most bitter about the loss would have to be Biggar. Despite being in doubt with sore ribs in the lead-up, Biggar had an exceptional match, doing everything he could to ensure a Welsh home triumph. It was the type of complete performance that would have had his former Wales coach, now Lions leader Warren Gatland, getting in contact with the team’s official tailors and providing them with Biggar’s dimensions for a New Zealand tour blazer.
Photo by Simon King – CameraSport via Getty Images
It wasn’t just his precise, fast through-the-hands passing and astute direction that made Biggar stand out; it was also his ability to save Wales when they were in a predicament.
England were immediately on the charge, finding themselves perched in the Welsh quarter, and they seemed set to score in the fifth minute until Biggar reefed the ball straight out of the hands of Dylan Hartley. The England captain looked dumbfounded as Biggar regained possession, and Wales kicked their way out of trouble from the next phase.
Biggar went close to scoring later in the half, and then after the break he was involved in a major rescue mission. England were playing an effective “keepies off” game when their scrum-half Ben Youngs, in their 19th phase when right on the Welsh line, opted for a long pass directed at his centres.
Biggar sensed what Youngs was about to do, leapt from the defensive line, took the ball with his left hand, and then fled down the field 50 metres before chip-kicking ahead into the England quarter. Problem averted.
In the commentary box, Jonathan Davies was drooling: “A brilliant, brilliant read.”
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
Yes, it was brilliant, brilliant. But there is only so much one player can do, and eventually England’s dominance of possession enabled them to go ahead and enjoy a lucky win – especially as their No. 10 George Ford was so robotic and predictable.
Ford seemed to flounder whenever England were under pressure, often saved by the person outside him, Owen Farrell. The All Blacks wouldn’t mind confronting Ford.
While Jonathan Sexton — favoured by many to be the Lions No. 10 — remains sidelined, Ireland have a more-than-adequate backup in Paddy Jackson. He is an assured pivot who had no problems exposing the cardboard cut-outs in the Italian line-up in Rome during Ireland’s nine-try romp. He is also a reliable goal kicker.
The second round of Six Nations matches also provided a reminder of how a scrum-half can make a No. 10. When Greig Laidlaw was on the field for Scotland against France, Finn Russell looked composed; but Russell became erratic as soon as Laidlaw left the field after 23 minutes with an ankle complaint. Not surprisingly, without their authoritative leader and the best No 9 in the tournament, Scotland fell away.
Scotland know so much revolves around their captain.
There is a long way to go in this Six Nations, but already a Laidlaw-Biggar Lions combination looks more than handy.
Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/18674843/wales-flyer-dan-bigger-makes-case-british-irish-lions-pivot
Dan Biggar the man to counter Beauden Barrett for Lions
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