By David Williams
Dan Biggar feels that the future is bright for Wales after his Test career drew to a close despite the agonising Rugby World Cup exit.
The Wales fly-half bowed out at Stade Velodrome as hopes of reaching a third World Cup semi-final in the last four tournaments were ended by Argentina.
Biggar, who turns 34 on Monday, won 112 caps during a 15-year career at the top.
He also scored more than 600 points for Wales and was the team’s tactical controller, but Argentina ensured no fairy-tale finish for him, posting a 29-17 victory that took them to Paris and a semi-final appointment with New Zealand on Friday.
— BBC Sport Wales (@BBCSportWales) October 14, 2023
Biggar, though, is enthused by the squad he leaves behind, with head coach Warren Gatland having already started an impressive transformation process following last season’s Six Nations misery.
Wales only avoided the wooden spoon by beating Italy in Rome as their campaign played out against a back-drop of contractual and financial uncertainty in Welsh professional rugby that almost led to a players’ strike prior to facing England in Cardiff.
But an unbeaten march through their World Cup pool – it included a record 40-6 win against Australia – and 19 points collected from a possible 20 highlighted an impressive revival.
Not the end that Dan Biggar would have wanted today but…
— BBC ScrumV (@BBCScrumV) October 14, 2023
The tournament also saw further progression for players like Biggar’s expected fly-half successor Sam Costelow, squad co-captains Jac Morgan and Dewi Lake and Exeter forwards Dafydd Jenkins and Christ Tshiunza.
And there were those who did not make the final 33-strong World Cup group – centre Max Llewellyn, wing Tom Rogers, prop Keiron Assiratti, plus locks Ben Carter and Teddy Williams, among others – that give further cause for optimism.
“If you had offered this five months ago, we would have snapped your hand off,” Biggar said.
Gutted for Wales but sincere congrats to @unionargentina – who deserved the win as they asphyxiated us in the 2nd half.
Good luck + thanks to Dan Biggar for all he has done for Wales.
But for perspective, with all else going on in the world- it was a game of rugby. 🏉🏴🇦🇷🙏
— Phil Steele (@philsteele1) October 14, 2023
“This young group have driven standards and pushed us to keep going.
“I have got no doubt they will achieve some really good things if they keep the squad together and allow boys like Sam Costelow some time in that 10 seat and allow him to drive it and make it his team.
“I sat Sam down and told him to make this team his own going forward. I told him ‘my time is over – this is your time, so make it count’.
“I am sure he will because he is a huge talent with a bit of genuine X-factor about him. He can develop into a real leader.
“A strong core of young players will have learned so much from this experience, and they will know that they have got the talent to rub shoulders with the best of the best. I really think the future is bright for Welsh rugby.
“Hopefully people will remember me for being passionate and caring about every moment.
“I am going to miss it. I didn’t think I would be particularly emotional – I almost thought I would be relieved – but there is definitely a bit of sadness.
“I am definitely going to miss it in the months and years to come.
“I think it will be raw for a couple of days, maybe a couple of weeks, but when I reflect back on my career hopefully I will be fairly pleased with what I have done.”
— WalesOnline Rugby (@WalesRugby) October 15, 2023
With Gatland in the early phase of a five-year contract during a second stint as Wales boss, attention will soon turn to this season’s Six Nations, while Wales also have a fixture against the Barbarians on November 4.
Japan-bound backs Liam Williams and Gareth Anscombe will not be available for the Six Nations, and it remains to be seen if any players follow Biggar into international retirement.
Gatland added: “You have got to take learnings. How do we develop and improve as a squad?
“I am incredibly proud of the work these players and the whole staff have put in. We have made some really good strides.
“We need to continue on that path. We don’t want to be going backwards, and that is a good challenge for us to accept and make sure we continue to keep improving.”
The message Wales boss Warren Gatland had for young Sam Costelow after his pass was intercepted by Nicolas Sanchez for the result-deciding Argentina try. #RWC2023 | #WALvARG pic.twitter.com/uihdc6oatw
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 14, 2023