Head-to-head: Ian Keatley v Dan Biggar

Rich Dore
20 November 2019

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Since its reformatting, the Champions Cup relentlessly serves up huge clash after huge clash in Europe, and it’s no different on Saturday when Benetton host Northampton Saints.

Maybe a year ago this fixture wouldn’t have held as much intrigue, but skip forward to today and Benetton are in the competition for the first time on merit, courtesy of their history-making 2018/19 season, and Saints are flying high in the English Premiership.

Two sides hungry for success also pitches together two of the most exciting fly-halves in European rugby, with Benetton’s Ian Keatley likely to come up against former Guinness PRO14 general Dan Biggar.

The Welshman, 30, is of course a hero in Ospreys parts having helped deliver Championship titles in 2010 and 2012 in 11 years at the region, not to mention his national exploits.

Biggar moved to Northampton last season and is well settled at the historic club, delivering consistently in an expansive game under Chris Boyd before taking Wales to the World Cup semi-finals just last month.

The match against Lyon on Sunday, which Saints won 25-14, was his first game back but Biggar delivered a flawless display from the tee to take 20 points and the man-of-the-match award.

“Dan will always get you good game control. He is the best in the world at what he does,” said Boyd. “It was particularly pleasing that Dan and the other World Cup returnees fitted in so well.

“We’ve benefited from Cobus Reinach being away with South Africa and practising his box-kicks throughout.

“He came back and I thought the accuracy of his kick and Dan’s chase was a key part of the game.”

From one experienced fly-half to another, opposite Biggar on Saturday could be Keatley, the only back in Guinness PRO14 history to hit 200 appearances thanks to his performances for Leinster, Connacht and Munster and Benetton.

The two fly-halves also have copious amounts of Championship points between them, with the two among the three leading points scorers in its history.

Benetton lost out to Leinster on Saturday, 33-19, which when you think of some of the beatings handed out by Leo Cullen’s men this season, is an excellent result for the Italians.

Similarly to Biggar, Keatley’s game control was excellent, but their games were quite different, with Keatley choosing to pass more (26 passes and six carries compared with Biggar’s 16 passes and nine carries).

Biggar also claimed 36 metres and made one clean break with ball in hand, using his famed kick regathering to effect against Lyon, while Keatley got his team playing in the right areas of the pitch whenever possible.

“We are taking great positives going into the Northampton game,” said Keatley. “You have to win your home games in this competition so we’ll be focusing on it hard.”

On Saturday the Stadio Monigo stage looks all set for a fascinating battle between two of club rugby’s best No.10s.

Cardiff City Stadium will play host to the 2020 Guinness PRO14 Final on June 20 as one of the most exciting days in the club rugby calendar comes to Wales!

General sale tickets are available from http://bit.ly/PRO14Cardiff2020 and prices start at just £13 for concessions and £26 for adults (subject to booking fees), that’s a 15% early bird discount. Family ticket (2 adults / 2 children) prices begin at £64 and fans are encouraged to buy early to get the best value tickets.

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