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Biggar backed as Welsh goalkicker

2015-09-17 16:39

Cardiff - Wales assistant coach Neil Jenkins has backed Dan Biggar to fill the boots of goal-kicking full-back Leigh Halfpenny, cruelly ruled out of the World Cup with a last-minute injury.

Halfpenny and also scrum-half Rhys Webb had their worst fears confirmed after sustaining injuries in Wales' final warm-up match against Italy.

The loss of Halfpenny in particular, one of the best kickers of the ball ever to grace a rugby pitch and scorer of 508 points in 62 Tests for Wales, was seen as a devastating blow for Wales, but Jenkins was quick to back Biggar ahead of Wales' opening Pool A match against Uruguay on Sunday.

"After losing those two players against Italy, like anything with sport, you have to get on with things and move on," the former Wales fly-half and world record points holder said.

"I am pretty close to both players and their disappointment is an opportunity for someone else. We have to move forward and look towards Sunday and everyone seems in pretty good shape."

With New Zealand-born utility back Gareth Anscombe also ruled out through injury and James Hook not called up for the 31-man squad, kicking duties will fall to incumbent playmaker Biggar, with Rhys Priestland on the bench.

"We have lost one of the best in Leigh Halfpenny, but between him and Biggar it is probably touch and go anyway," Jenkins insisted.

"Leigh took over the kicking four years ago and deserves his place as one of the best in the world, if not the best. 'Bigs' is incredibly close if not on a par with him.

"We are very lucky in that regard to have someone like Dan to come in and be able to do the job that he does with the Ospreys week in week out and do a very good job for us."

One thing that will be lost is Halfpenny's long-range kicking abilities.

"'Bigs' would be comfortable around the halfway on any given day and Halfpenny would be that fraction further," Jenkins said.

"But with adrenaline and conditions and magnitude of the game anything can happen.

"I am sure 'Bigs' would back himself against Leigh in terms of distance and they enjoy a good battle.

"He is a world-class kicker and if it is out of his distance we won't worry about that. It's simple because we will go for the corner and try and score from there."

Jenkins acknowledged, however, that in a pool which also includes tournament hosts England, two-time winners Australia, currently ranked second in the world, and a dangerous-looking Fiji team, the pressure might be less on the goalkickers with points to go for against minnows Uruguay.

Only two teams qualify automatically for the quarter-finals and given the track records of at least the big three in the pool, it could well come down to points difference.

"We will analyse Uruguay and put a game plan in place," said Jenkins.

"Whether that's ball in hand or seeing how the game unfolds, we will have to wait and see.

"But whatever happens we need to be ready. It's a World Cup final for them and a massive occasion for them coming to the Millennium Stadium and playing against us in the World Cup. It probably doesn't get much bigger.

"We know what is coming and we know they will be pretty physical. We just need to make sure we are right and playing the right game. If it means ball in hand, that's what we will do and if it means kicking for territory and earning the right to play, we will do that."

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