Dan Biggar learning to live with spotlight at No.10
HE is doing a job that should come with a health warning, but Dan Biggar will head for Scotland this weekend insisting he is relishing his first proper run as Wales's fly-half.
A Wales No. 10 watcher who dabbled in psychology might see that in itself as a hugely positive result.
For this is a demanding position, still one of the most demanding in rugby, with its traditions and the intense scrutiny that goes with it.
Twenty years ago, Neil Jenkins declared: "In Wales, the half-backs, especially the No. 10, always get the blame."
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Rhys Priestland would probably agree nothing much has changed.
The fly-half role doesn't just require attributes such as control, intelligence, balance, poise, flair, quick feet, authority and vision, allied to the core essentials of being able to pass, tackle and kick.
In Wales, it also requires the incumbent to have the hide of a rhino.
It isn't just the public criticism that can hurt.
The treatment at the hands of the national selectors can be painful as well.
Ask Gareth Davies to revisit 1985 when after two lacklustre performances he saw the selectors announce a team with A. N. Other at fly-half. Publicly humiliated, he immediately announced his retirement from the international game.
Ask Stephen Jones, who saw nine other players wear the Wales No. 10 shirt over the course of his Test career. It says everything about his strength of character that he withstood the challenges and battled back to win 104 caps.
Ask Phil Bennett, relegated to third in the pecking order at the start of the 1975 Five Nations before being restored courtesy of injuries to John Bevan and David Richards — or divine intervention, as Max Boyce described it.
Jenkins himself was shunted here there and everywhere and vilified throughout his career, with much of Welsh rugby at the time appearing to blame him for every ill that had befallen the game here. Quite probably, they blamed him for problems in the Middle East and Mad Cow Disease as well.
Priestland? The selectors backed him to the hilt, but by mid November last year he had resorted to blaming himself for the awfulness of Wales's autumn campaign. That's what playing at No. 10 for Wales can do to a player.
So how are you coping, Dan?
"I'm just enjoying being part of the set-up," said Biggar.
"Of course there's pressure but I try to deal with it and the wins we have had over France and Italy have been great to be a part of.
"I don't think it's helpful for me to get caught up in any hype over the jersey.
"I know there is a lot of tradition attached to the fly-half position in Wales, but as a group we cherish every jersey, whether it's the No. 10 or the No. 4 shirt.
"There are pressures at No. 10 but there are pressures in every position. You just try to make the most of playing for Wales and do your best.
"You have to take the rough with the smooth. When your pack is going well and the team is winning, it becomes easier for a fly-half and everyone is happy. When the forwards are on the back foot and the fly-half's life is tougher, everyone is more critical. I don't have complaints about that.
"Sport, like life, isn't a straight line. There are ups and downs and there can't be anyone who has played the game who would disagree with that."
Biggar continued: "It's how you react that counts.
"We are all human but you just have to stay grounded when things are working out and don't get too down on yourself when you hit a rough patch. The test of a person's character always comes when things are not going to plan. That's when you learn a lot about yourself.
"Thankfully, it's going reasonably well for me at present.
"You have to be yourself."
Perhaps every fly-half who has ever played for Wales would have benefited from absorbing those words before he started.
Take Arwel Thomas. He had the raw talent, and considerable public support, but his Test career ended three weeks after his 26th birthday.
"All I wanted to do," he said two years later, "was play for Wales. When I did it was like a dream come true. But I didn't understand the things that went with it."
Biggar doesn't pretend to have all the answers. But he has never lacked self-assurance and he has toughened up after some occasionally bumpy times with the Ospreys.
He has settled well in this Six Nations, recovering from a charge down against Ireland to gradually pick up the pace of Test rugby.
He has had a hand in four of Wales's five tries, with his chip over the defence for George North's score against France and his pass to Alex Cuthbert against Italy particularly sharp pieces of skill.
"He's done well," said Ospreys assistant coach Jonathan Humphreys.
"In Rome he was responsible for a 14-point swing, making a try-saving tackle at one end and within a couple of minutes going to the other end, collecting a high ball and setting up Mike Phillips for the kick from where Wales scored their first try.
"He was hugely influential in the game and I was surprised he didn't get more plaudits."
Even so, the wins in Paris and Rome haven't been marked by extended passages of memorable rugby from Wales.
"Everyone has to be realistic about how good defences are nowadays," Biggar said.
"In Wales I think there are still some people who'd like us to play attacking rugby all the time.
"But that isn't the way to win a match.
"We'd rather win 6-3 playing below ourselves than lose 19-16 playing attractive rugby.
"Of course, the ideal is that you win and play running rugby. But sometimes it isn't possible. You take when we go back to the Ospreys.
"We're in a battle to qualify for the top four in the Pro12 so the first priority is going to be to play winning rugby. It's the same with Wales. The key is to get the right result."
Biggar is looking forward to renewing links with his old Ospreys coaching chief Scott Johnson, now in charge of Scotland.
"It will be a different experience to go into a game against him," he added.
"He will try to play on what he sees are my weaknesses. But it's just up to me to be at my best.
"I'm looking forward to catching up with him."
Wearing the Wales No. 10 shirt, dealing with Johnson and his mind games — the pressures never stop.