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Baldwin finding balance with Wales


Warren Gatland, pictured, has handed Scott Baldwin a first start

Warren Gatland, pictured, has handed Scott Baldwin a first start

Warren Gatland, pictured, has handed Scott Baldwin a first start

Former competitive skateboarder Scott Baldwin is fast-tracking his way into World Cup contention with Wales.

The 26-year-old Ospreys hooker will make his first Test match start in Saturday's Millennium Stadium appointment with Fiji.

And Baldwin is relishing the opportunity to make a mark in a major position of strength for Wales head coach Warren Gatland, given that there are also players like Richard Hibbard, Ken Owens, Emyr Phillips and Matthew Rees with World Cup credentials.

Bridgend-born Baldwin, though, could easily have taken a different sporting path.

He did not consider playing rugby until his mid-teens, having caught the skateboarding bug and being good enough at it to finish second during a high-profile championship event staged in Bristol.

"I used to compete in a few competitions, but I was snapping too many boards, and they are expensive," he said.

"I went away from that when I joined my local youth rugby team (Bridgend Athletic). It became a lot more social than maybe going down the local skate park on your own.

"I have the worst balance in the world, and I have been staying away from that (skateboarding) for the last 10 years.

"I saw a kid in the street a couple of years ago and I said was there any chance of a go. I jumped on - and fell straight off - so I have stayed away.

"Until I was 15 or 16, I was skateboarding instead of playing rugby, then I went to Bridgend College and the college coach (Gareth Nicholas) said I could play in the (Welsh) Premiership.

"I thought that would be as far as I could go, but Andrew Millward came in and gave me a chance with the Ospreys, and now I have been told I am going to start at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday. It is a dream come true."

Baldwin's previous two Wales caps were both gained off the bench - against Japan last year and Australia four days ago. When he ran on to face the Wallabies, it was as a replacement for ex-Ospreys forward Hibbard, who has proved a key figure during his rugby development.

"After the game, Warren asked me how it was, and I said I thought the Northampton versus Ospreys game a couple of weeks ago was pretty quick, but Saturday was another step up again," Baldwin added.

"Obviously, it is different coming off the bench, but it was so much quicker than I had ever played. It was something I enjoyed, apart from the result, obviously.

"It was a good experience, and I thought the boys put in a really good performance. If you had flipped the score round, people would have been saying how well we had played.

"For us, we are focusing on all the positives, We are not hiding from what happened in that last 10-15 minutes (against Australia), but we have to move on from that and focus on this week against Fiji.

"For 55 minutes against France last Saturday, Fiji were very close. Their set-piece went particularly well, so we are going to have to be on the money there.

"For us, it is going to be focusing on doing our things right, getting our set-piece right and going through our structures and patterns, and the coaches have told us that if you see something is on don't be afraid to go for it.

"But you have to be clever as well, and not try stupid off-loads. We have to cut down on our errors."