Dan Biggar aims to thrive again under the big match spotlight on Saturday – the type of opportunity he admits were starting to pass him by at the Ospreys.
The Wales fly-half may have played a significant part in securing the Six Nations Grand Slam this season, but his club’s achievements at Northampton are something of a throwback.
Not just for the Saints – who have not on any serious silverware for five years – but also for Biggar himself, who left Welsh regional rugby long after the heady days of Ospreys’ finals and big occasions had passed.
His old region may look as if they’re heading back towards those heights, having qualified again for the Heineken Champions Cup next season, but Biggar, who will turn 30 later this year, felt he could not afford to hang around.
That was why he says he left the Liberty Stadium a year ago to move to the Midlands club who face Exeter Chiefs in this weekend’s Gallagher Premiership semi-final.
Ahead of Saints’ trip to Sandy Park, Biggar says: “This was the reason why I made a change in my career.
“Over the last few years these kind of opportunities had dried up. It is nice for me personally to be able to be in a big game come Saturday, and prove I made the right choice.
“There was a lot said about financial reasons and of course that’s a factor, but the bottom line is, it doesn’t matter whether you’re the highest earner in a club, or the lowest earner in a club, when it comes to lacing your boots up everyone has got the same motivation – wanting to do well for your club and for yourself and your team.”
Northampton will be hoping Biggar can bring the same influence and killer instinct he has shown for Wales this season and in the past.
He may have been usurped as the starting Test No.10 by Gareth Anscombe this season, but his ability to join the fray and steer Wales home to victory underlined yet again how he is the man for the big occasion.
“I don’t want to jinx myself, but I feel like I have done okay in big games before. Hopefully, come Saturday in a big game, individually and as a team, we can step up to the plate. We know most of us are going to have to play nine out of ten to upset the odds.”
Biggar was twice a Guinness Pro14 champion with the Ospreys – the last time in 2012 – and says there is little difference in quality between the leading teams in both competitions.
Where the gap does exist, he feels, is in the standard of performance required for each and every round of the season.
“I wouldn’t say the quality is any different – you can’t say that when you have got teams like Leinster, Munster, Ulster in the Pro14 – but I have found the intensity week in, week out is hard to level.
“We finished fourth on 56 points and Bristol were down in ninth and finished on 51. That’s how competitive the season is.
“This has been by far the toughest seasons of my whole career and that is something I have really loved.”
Biggar and Saints will be huge underdogs at Exeter. Saints have not reached the play offs since 2015 and in that time Chiefs have made four successive finals, winning one of them.
A victory for Northampton seems all the more unlikely in the light of their 40-21 defeat away the Chiefs a week ago on the final day of the regular season.
But Biggar says the influence of New Zealander Chris Boyd as head coach at the club this season, means in a one-off clash the players will have nothing but belief they can win.
“Coming into work every day is easy. Chris makes it fun. He works you really hard but he also gives back. Even when we have lost games, although we are disappointed there always seems to be a positive edge to things.
“Sometimes, I used to dread coming in on a Monday after a loss because you know the meeting is going to be long and hard, but coming in here I have found there is always that bit of light.
“It will always end on a positive and on what we can do the following week.
“When I signed, the club was on a bit of a downward slope and the coaches deserve a huge amount of credit but we’re now on an upward curve.
“We have the freedom to play. We want the game to be as open as possible on Saturday and we have to play risk-reward rugby.”