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Baldwin aims to lay foundations

Wales hooker Scott Baldwin swapped the building site for the international rugby arena - and now he plans to put down further career foundations at the World Cup this autumn.

Baldwin ended the Six Nations season as Wales' first-choice hooker but the 26-year-old Osprey admits he is taking nothing for granted as Warren Gatland's enlarged squad head for punishing pre-World Cup training camps in Switzerland and Qatar this month.

And Baldwin admits life in the workforce and a difficult relationship with former Ospreys and Scotland coach Scott Johnson provided the motivation for him to complete the remarkable journey from the humble surrounds of Bridgend Athletic to the Wales front-row.

"I didn't really see eye-to-eye with Scott Johnson and it wasn't until Steve Tandy came in that I was told I would play," said Baldwin, who started the historic autumn victory over South Africa and Wales' final three Six Nations games.

"He (Johnson) didn't think much of me as a player but I don't really care about him.

"I care about what the Wales coaches and the coaches at my region think and, most of all, what the players you're playing with think.

"For me it's about doing my best for the players I'm playing with and the coaches I'm playing for.

"This is the first time I've been involved before a World Cup. It's nice to turn up but everyone is fighting tooth and nail now to get into that 31-man squad for the tournament."

Four years ago Wales reached the semi-finals of the 2011 World Cup and were a successful long-range Leigh Halfpenny penalty away from beating France and playing hosts New Zealand in the final.

It is evidence to how far Baldwin has come since then that, as when 65,000 Wales fans filled the Millennium Stadium to see the France semi-final on the big screen, he was around the corner in a Cardiff pub watching the game with friends.

"I was playing for Swansea (in the Welsh Premiership) at the time," Baldwin said. "The booze was flying in the bar - but I won't be doing that this time!

"We're going to have some pretty big training sessions and it's absolutely horrific when you're doing it.

"But how many people in the world are training for a World Cup in 10 or 12 weeks time?

"I know I'm in a privileged position and it's something we've all got in the back of our minds when we're training out there."

Getting up at five in the morning for high-altitude training in Switzerland or in the desert heat of Qatar will be a shock to the system for most Wales players who have come through the Academy system.

Baldwin has a different back story to his colleagues and he feels it gives him a rare perspective on rugby as he aims to make the final World Cup cut.

"I don't know if I cherish it more because it means so much to everyone," said Baldwin, who will contest the hooker's spot at the tournament with Richard Hibbard and Ken Owens.

"But I think I've got a better understanding of both sides of the fence as some boys wouldn't know what it's like to go out and work 10 hours on a wet building site.

"One of the boys said to me when I was at Bridgend Athletic: 'Do you think you'll ever play for Wales?' I told him I wanted to and, funnily enough, I saw him at a wedding in the off-season and he said: "You've done what you said'.

"I felt quite proud at that moment and if I could go to a World Cup that would be the greatest feeling possible."


From Belfast Telegraph