Biggs hoping for opportunity to add new chapter

Tom Biggs

Tom Biggs

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Eight years ago, Tom Biggs was contemplating playing part-time rugby with Harrogate while working in a pea factory to supplement his student income.

Now, the Beverley-born winger is celebrating his first call-up to the England squad with the prospect of debuting against the revered 
All Blacks on Saturday.

He had once been written off by Premiership Leeds Tykes, deemed too small and lightweight to truly make an impact and was therefore allowed to leave for Claro Road.

But a major injury crisis at Headingley prompted an urgent re-think by coach Phil Davies and Biggs was swiftly recalled.

By the end of that 2004-05 season, he had lit up the Premiership with a series of stunning tries and helped unfancied Leeds to a famous Powergen Cup final win.

Soon he would be gracing the Heineken Cup. He has not looked back since.

The pea factory and his other job as a cinema usher were sidelined as he scripted his own version of the sporting underdog come good.

This tale’s next chapter could see Biggs – now 28 and plying his trade with Bath – stepping out at Twickenham for the Red Rose this weekend.

But he will never forget his roots in the Broad Acres.

“I remember it all,” he told the Yorkshire Post.

“There’s a lot of ups and downs in a career and it’s great to get a little bit of recognition like this.

“I might not play at the weekend, but it’s brilliant to be involved and it shows how my career is going now.

“With Leeds I’d have to say the highlight was that Powergen Cup final.

“It was a really memorable 
afternoon and it’s funny now that I’m actually playing for Bath, the side we beat.

“I want to win some silverware with them too now and we’ve a few ex-Leeds lads down here.

“Stuart Hooper is our captain and a fantastic leader, but there’s Rob Webber and Mark McMilllan as well from Tykes.”

Biggs, who became Leeds’s greatest try scorer with 52 in 108 games, joined Newcastle in 2009 before moving on to Bath a year later.

There he has established himself further as one of the Premiership’s most potent finishers.

It is no surprise he has emerged on the radar of England boss Stuart Lancaster.

For it was Lancaster who, as Leeds’s Academy chief, first brought Biggs to Davies’s attention after seeing him in action for Yorkshire Under-18s.

“I’ve had a good relationship with Stuart throughout my career,” admitted Biggs.

“Not just at Leeds but also when I played with England Sevens, too, and he was overseeing a lot of things then,

“He’s done great in his own career, too.

“It’s been good training (yesterday). I know quite a lot of the guys in the camp from the England Saxons’ squad.

“We trained and will have a more intense day (today) which I’m looking forward to.”

Biggs – who has been drafted into the training camp as a replacement for injured Ugo Monye – concedes he felt he was worthy of an England call-up before this acknowledgement.

“I was disappointed when the squad was announced not to be involved from the start of the autumn internationals,” he said, having won lavish praise from a host of respected commentators.

“But I spoke to Stuart Lancaster and he came in to see our head coach at Bath, Gary Gold.

“While I was disappointed, I always knew there would be injuries and, while it’s unfortunate for those, I knew that’s when I’d get a chance.

“It’d be fantastic to make my England debut against the All Blacks.

“I’ve just got to try hard over these next few days. I don’t know what might happen.”

In all likelihood, Lancaster will stick with current wingers Chris Ashton and Mike Brown, but there will be some changes to the side that lost 16-15 to South Africa.

Saracens fly-half Owen Farrell is due to start against the All Blacks after Toby Flood was sidelined with a toe ligament injury.

Gloucester’s Freddie Burns is set for a place on the bench after being called up as his replacement.

Lancaster believes England can handle the loss of their most experienced players – Flood was the only member of the squad with over 50 caps to his name.

After a defeat against Australia was followed by a wasted chance against the Springboks, he said: “We lost a lot of caps (after the World Cup), about 600, and you think we have probably lost another 100 in (injured trio) Dylan Hartley, Tom Croft and Ben Foden.

“We are not making excuses. We went toe-to-toe with two of the best sides in the world. We are hugely disappointed to lose.

“We have to learn the lessons quickly and move on.

“Every team grows with every game through experience and we are on that journey. The direction is the right one.”

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