George North has revealed the motivation that is keeping him going at Test level.
The 28-year-old winger has already achieved so much for Wales and the British and Irish Lions – with a remarkable 98 Test caps to his name.
Broken down, that’s an astounding 95 for Wales and a further three Test caps for the Lions – all won against Australia in 2013.
It’s only a matter of time before North reaches a century of caps – but it’s the fact he hasn’t already done so that is driving him on to achieve more in the international game.
Because, for North, the abiding memory of his travels with the Lions isn’t any of his match-winning salvos in 2013, but rather a tour-ending injury in a mid-week game during the 2017 tour of New Zealand that ended any hopes of adding to his tally of Lions Test caps.
The frustration caused by that 2017 tour, where North was up against his own fitness as well as the best wingers British and Irish rugby can offer, resulted in North coming back to Wales in order to further his career moving forward.
Within a few months, a return had been announced – with North eventually joining the Ospreys the following year.
And he hopes that coming home to play his club rugby in Wales will help his Lions hopes.
“In a word, yes, I’d love to tour South Africa next summer,” he said.
“Obviously you’ve got to be playing your best rugby but coming back to Wales and feeling like me again – and playing like me again towards the end of the Six Nations – I want to be in those (selection) conversations.
“I’ve been on two very different tours; 2013 was incredible, 2017, physically but also mentally, was a lot harder.”
Having been injured shortly before flying out to New Zealand in 2017, North spent the tour largely playing catch up.
After the first Test came too soon, he was given a chance to impress in a midweek fixtures against the Hurricanes.
It didn’t go to plan. First of all, an early injury to centre Robbie Henshaw forced him to sacrifice his Test audition on the wing to cover midfield.
Yet, despite that, he scored a well-taken try and things were looking up – right up until he ripped his hamstring.
“My body just gave out,” he said. “There was nothing I could do. Everything was hanging on. My lungs were on the floor and my hamstring tore towards the end of the first half.
“I thought to myself ‘it’s not too bad, I’ll plod on’. Got to half-time, got strapped up, came back out for the second half and did a proper job of it.
“I thought, ‘well if this is my last time in a Lions jersey I want to give it everything until I can’t walk’ – which sounds heroic but then when you tear your hamstring you can’t walk!”
Of course, there is the one that millions of people see under the uncompromising glare of the floodlights.
The fly-half who doesn’t give an inch, who puts his body on the line without hesitation, who demands the best out of himself and his team-mates.
And then there is Dan. The father, the husband. The one who comes home after training and tidies up his son’s play room, who likes his golf, who is just like me and you in many ways.
There’s a switch he flicks when he comes through the door. Rugby Dan stays where Rugby Dan belongs.
“If I wasn’t good at turning that off I think I’d drive myself, my wife and everyone around me crazy. I’m really good at that,” he tells WalesOnline.
“I think the family life has certainly put a different perspective on rugby. I’m still massively disappointed if we lose or if we don’t play well.
“When I’m in training and game mode on a Saturday afternoon, there is still nothing more important than wanting to win every moment, be the best you can be and be successful.
“But now when I come in through the door after training or a game, I’m able to completely switch off as opposed to sitting up worrying, rewatching the game.
“I’ve really just enjoyed coming home, switching off and putting my focus on my family because I don’t spend a huge amount of time with them.
“That’s the key for me, especially in the last couple of years.”
And there has been one particularly significant change in the last couple of years.
Three-and-a-half years ago, to be a little more precise, Biggar’s son James came into the world.
The 31-year-old has always given off the impression that the defeats live with him a little longer than other players.
Whether that was true or not before, it is certainly not the case now because when the door swings open, James doesn’t know if his dad won or lost.
“It’s really nice to have an outlet. I come home and he’s not aware of anything really. He knows I go away and I’m on the telly but he doesn’t understand things yet,” said Biggar, an ambassador for Dove Men+Care.
“He quite liked having the Six Nations medal around his neck a while back. He thought it was a reward for tidying up his playroom one evening. I went along with that.
“He’s been the best thing that’s happened to me.”
James may not understand what is going on around him just yet but one day he will.
One day he’ll realise that his father won multiple Six Nations championships, went on two Lions tours, played at a couple of World Cups and earned a boat-load of caps for his country.
Not that the man himself will be in a rush to tell stories about the good times.
“I’m going to keep all the bad press and there is plenty of it!” Biggar laughs. “I’ll get him to go through all that, which will be good entertainment for him. If he listens to some people his dad will have been pretty rubbish!
“It’s been quite difficult with Covid because games, particularly international ones, used to be a real family day out for lots of people.
“As he’s getting a little bit older and a bit more aware, it’s been sad that we’ve not been able to keep doing that.
“We played Wasps a couple of weeks ago with Northampton and he came to that with my wife Alex. That will have been the first game he’s been to since everything kicked off with Covid.
“I suppose when I finish or he gets old enough to realise, it’ll be quite nice to show him what I achieved.
“I really want him to be quite independent though and I don’t want to push rugby on him. I want him to be able to choose what he wants to do.”
One person who does understand everything Biggar has achieved and everything he goes through is his wife, Alex.
The pair have been together since they were in school, so she has seen the highs and the lows, the mental and physical price her husband has paid to get to where he is.
And now she is the one who is at home taking care of James when Biggar is away in Covid-secure bubbles at team hotels for weeks on end.
“Alex has been brilliant,” he says.
“Like with all the rugby boys, the partners and parents do a heck of a lot more than we do. They can sometimes get overlooked.”
Alex runs a successful baking business aptly named ‘Biggar Bakes’ and during the recent Six Nations some of her goods made it past the Wales team nutritionist.
They were on offer at the ‘Covid Cafe’ an in-house patisserie run by Jonathan Davies and George North to keep spirits high on days off.
“She was a primary school teacher before she gave birth to James,” Biggar explains. “Being a mum, she found herself being at home a lot and we were doing out a playroom for James.
“We thought we’d put a bit of an open plan kitchen in there for her as well. So she’s baking, doing wedding cakes, birthday cakes and bits and pieces while the little one is causing carnage around her.
“I come home after training sometimes and it’s like a bomb has gone off in that room.
“It normally falls to me to do the tidying up then as well!
“But she’s doing very well with that. She’s very independent, likes doing things for herself and keeping busy throughout the days.
“It’s hard for her to really rely on me around the house because of the hours we work and the time we spend away.
“So it’s good for her that she has a routine with James and her own life as well.”
And so to the future.
Around the corner is another trip. A big one.
Biggar heads into the 2021 Lions tour of South Africa as the front-runner to start in the Test series.
Of course, he is relishing the prospect to once again don a famous red jersey different to the one he has worn 92 times before.
But now he has arrived at the training camp in Jersey, he will not see Alex or James for eight weeks due to Covid restrictions.
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