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Wales hooker Baldwin excited to lock horns with England counterpart Hartley

Published 28/02/2016

Wales hooker Scott Baldwin is relishing his potential Twickenham battle
Wales hooker Scott Baldwin is relishing his potential Twickenham battle

Wales hooker Scott Baldwin has showered praise on England captain and opposite number Dylan Hartley ahead of a crunch RBS 6 Nations clash between the countries at Twickenham.

Hartley, who has served a total of 54 weeks' suspension during a chequered playing career, is at the forefront of England's revival under their Australian head coach Eddie Jones.

England are undefeated since Hartley was appointed skipper instead of Chris Robshaw, and victory over fellow unbeaten title rivals Wales on March 12 would put a first Six Nations crown since 2011 within touching distance.

Looking ahead to potentially facing Hartley, Baldwin said: "If selected, it will be nice to get out there and have a little tussle.

"He has shown his maturity since taking over as England captain.

"There have been a few things said about him, but he hasn't bitten, whereas in the past maybe he would have done.

"In the last game he played before Ireland, people were trying to make something out of nothing, with him hitting rucks and stuff.

"He's just an aggressive player who wants to do well for his country, and he has led from the front for England, so it will be an interesting battle."

Hartley's charge-sheet includes entries - and bans - ranging from verbal abuse of a referee to punching and head-butting, but Baldwin has short shrift for any suggestion that he might look to wind up the England leader amid Twickenham's white-hot cauldron.

"That's not part of my game - I am not that type of player," he added.

"If I am selected, I will just look forward to a tough battle against a good player.

"His core skills for a hooker are on the money. He is good in the scrums and in the lineouts, he gets around the park, he carries and he makes his tackles. He's an all-round player who does his job."

Wales could field 10 survivors or more from the starting line-up that featured in a thrilling 28-25 World Cup pool victory over England at Twickenham last September.

It was a result that left England hovering over the trap-door of pool stage elimination, and Australia duly finished them off a week later, meaning that the host nation crashed out of World Cup contention with indecent haste.

Asked if that result would be a motivating factor for England in two weeks' time, Baldwin said: "A little bit. It's going to be sitting in the back of their minds, because a lot the players are the same ones who were involved then.

"But Eddie Jones has probably given them confidence. They are building as a team, but we feel we are building as well, so it will be an exciting match and one we will look forward to."

Wales' 19-10 win against France two days ago means that victories at Twickenham and then against Cardiff visitors Italy the following weekend would guarantee a fourth Six Nations title of head coach Warren Gatland's eight-year reign.

Defeat in south-west London, though, and Wales' hopes of silverware will be over, which underlines how high the stakes are.

"We know the task in hand," Baldwin added. "England are a great team at home, and we were stung a couple of years ago up there.

"But we are not going to rest on the World Cup game, because we were probably lucky to get away from that (with a win). We weren't on the money for the first 20 or 30 minutes, but we are looking forward to going back there.

"The game against England is going to be a massive challenge."

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