Boot boys Biggar, Foley set for showdown

Bernard Foley (Gallo Images)
Bernard Foley (Gallo Images)

London - Bernard Foley and Dan Biggar - who put England's World Cup hopes to the sword on successive weekends - go boot-to-boot on Saturday.

If Foley triumphs then Australia will probably top Pool A, the toughest group at the World Cup. If Biggar stamps his authority, Wales will be the winners.

Both came to the tournament in the shadow of high profile fly-halves such as Dan Carter, Frederic Michalak and Jonathan Sexton. But as the pool stage reaches its climax Foley and Biggar have taken the spotlight.

Biggar, who was not Wales' first choice kicker one month ago, planted the first dagger into England with 23 points in Wales' 28-25 win over the hosts. It was the highest haul for a Welshman against England, no mean feat given kicking duties had been imposed on him with the injury to Leigh Halfpenny.

"If you concede penalties to them then they will crucify you," said Wallabies defence coach Nathan Grey in a compliment to Biggar and Wales.

Foley - who like Biggar is 26 - landed the killer blow to England's World Cup chances one week later. Again in front of a packed Twickenham crowd.

His 28 points, including two superb tries, eclipsed Matt Burke's 1998 mark of 21 points scored by an Australian against England.

"He's a real threat at the moment," was Wales coach Warren Gatland's assessment of the former Sevens specialist.

Foley, who blossomed under Michael Cheika's tutelage at the Waratahs and repaid his faith with a stunning long range penalty 30 seconds from full-time to give them their first Super Rugby title last year, is a big fan of Biggar.

"The way he has controlled the Wales games, he has been outstanding and his goal-kicking speaks for itself," said Foley.

For Biggar it has not been a seamless ride to international stardom after winning the first of his 37 caps aged just 19. But Gatland - never the easiest man to please -- appreciates that his persistence has brought its rewards.

"Dan's competitive streak got him through a difficult period and saw him come back stronger and better," said the New Zealander.

Neil Jenkins, Wales's record Test points scorer with 1 049 points, believes Biggar belongs with the Carters and the Sextons.

"For me, Dan is not far from being one of the best fly-halves in the world," said the 44-year-old, who is the Welsh team's kicking coach.

"He is exceptional kicking for goal, and has been since he was 15 when I first got to know him at the club I was with.

"He has never had to work too hard on his technique.

"He is in a good place mentally and has all the parts needed for a good kicker."

Gatland, who orchestrated the British and Irish Lions 2-1 Test series win over the Wallabies two years ago, said that closing down Foley was imperative.

"He's a real threat at the moment," said Gatland.

"His relationship with (scrumhalf Will)Genia has developed.

"A player we're conscious of will pose us problems. We will look to shut him down as much as we can, try to pressure him.

"He brings players in often and is a real threat.

"His goal-kicking has been pretty good too."

Genia for said Foley, who will win his 24th cap on Saturday, had grown up fast in the daunting Test arena.

"He has got a really good all round game," said Genia.

"He is a good passer of the ball and a good kicker whilst his communication and leadership has come on in leaps and bounds as was clear last weekend when he controlled the game really well."

Cheika, though, says Foley is still a work in progress.

"There is no special relationship between him and I," said Cheika.

"He is a tough man, for in the past three years at Waratahs he has never been injured.

"Foley is someone who is still in a developing phase. He has a lot of experience to gain as a flyhalf."

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