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Biggar wins over Toulon with near-perfect French

NEWS: Wales flyhalf Dan Biggar only arrived at Toulon four months ago but he has quickly made himself a fan favourite on the Cote d’Azur with a little help from Jonny Wilkinson’s French teacher.

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In December, the 33-year-old was presented to supporters at half-time of the defeat to Racing 92, a week before his club debut and made a speech on the Stade Mayol pitch in near-perfect French.

The playmaker, a veteran of 107 Tests, has followed in the footsteps of ex-England flyhalf Wilkinson, who made a point of learning French during his five trophy-laden seasons at the club.

Wilkinson was inducted into the club’s hall of fame this week alongside former South Africa back-rower Joe van Niekerk.

“I have the same teacher as Jonny,” Biggar told AFP at Toulon’s sun-drenched training complex on the Mediterranean coast.

“It hasn’t just been sit-down, classroom lessons. It’s been going out for dinner, to the shops and I have to ask where to pay, where the books for the kids are.

“It’s been stuff you need,” he added.

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Despite playing 11 games for the four-time French champions, and answering questions in a press conference in his second language, Biggar has found time to visit nearby coastal spots like Monaco and Cassis and introduce his partner to the local Bandol rose wine.

“Embrace yourself in the culture,” Biggar said.

“The French people and players here, they’ll make fun of you a little bit if you make mistakes but underneath everything they’ll be pleased that you’re trying.”

Different cultures
Far away from the blue skies of the French Riviera, Welsh rugby has been overshadowed this season by off the field issues including financial disputes between the country’s rugby union and four professional sides.

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The minimum cap rule for those wishing to continue to play for Wales while being with clubs abroad was dropped from 60 to 25 during the discussions.

“I wouldn’t be massively in favour of it,” said former Northampton playmaker Biggar who favours no restrictions.

“For me it’s a big part of rugby. Experiencing different cultures, leagues, languages, I think that’s really important,” he added.

Ex-Ospreys stand-off Biggar will turn 34 the day after a potential Rugby World Cup quarter-final with Wales in October, held in France.

In March, head coach Warren Gatland said up to eight of his squad had played their final Six Nations campaign.

“I think I’m definitely one of them,” Biggar said.

“There’s going to be a new four-year cycle after this World Cup.

“From my point of view hopefully I can show enough form and fitness to get to the World Cup here, which would be amazing,” he added.

This weekend Biggar’s side head to Castres where the hosts, last term’s runners-up, have lost just once in the league since December 2022.

Toulon are fourth in the table, a point above Racing 92 in the final play-off spot, and have tasted defeat on one occasion in the last three months.

“It would be a huge statement to win,” Biggar said.

“The way we’ve gone around our business the last 11 games builds confidence but Castres is notoriously a tough place to go for any team,” he added with four games of the regular season left.

Elsewhere in the French top-flight, La Rochelle host Clermont, a week before their Champions Cup semi-final with Exeter, Pau head to Brive in the relegation battle and leaders Toulouse travel to Stade Francais as the country’s most decorated sides meet in Paris.

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