The Ospreys’ newest full Wales cap, Scott Baldwin, has vowed to use his first international experience to kick-on in the forthcoming season.The 24-year old hooker made his international debut in the final minutes of the defeat to Japan last month, and although it was only a fleeting appearance in the red of Wales, he was evidently beaming with pride when recollecting the experience when he popped into the region’s Llandarcy training base this week.
“It’s a massive honour to play for your country, no matter how long you are on the pitch for” said Baldwin.
“If I never get to play for Wales again, I’ve achieved something that every young boy in Wales wants to do so it’s something special.
“It’s hard to picture that just 18 months ago I was out in Italy with Milan, hoping to use the experience to further my regional career. Since I came back I’ve been heavily involved and I had a busy time with the Ospreys last season. I played a lot of rugby, and to be included in the Wales squad at the end of the season was a real honour. To be involved in the second test, even though we lost, was a massive moment for me and for my family.”
Reflecting on a first ever Welsh defeat to the Cherry Blossoms, Baldwin felt that it was a game that Wales should’ve won, the loss meaning it was a day of mixed emotions for him:
“It was disappointing, as you’d expect. To lose any game is disappointing, but in ones like this where you create the chances and don’t take them it’s even more so. Watching the first half from the side I thought we were that close to breaking them, one pass away from scoring the try.
“Obviously it meant it was mixed emotions for me personally, getting on at the end. I was proud to get my first cap but disappointed to have lost the game, which was the bigger thing overall.”
Baldwin’s path to international honours has been a long and winding one, after being picked up by the Ospreys from the Premiership where he had impressed with home town club Bridgend Ravens, and has taken him via Swansea RFC, a loan spell in Italy with the Ospreys partner club ASR Milano, and eventually, after his most productive season yet with 23 regional appearances in 2012/13, to Japan.
“It shows that the development system is working” he said.
“I didn’t start playing with Bridgend Ath’ until I was 16 so although I wasn’t a part of age-grade at the Ospreys I was fortunate enough to be picked up and given a chance after playing for Bridgend.
“It’s worked out for me from there, just like it’s worked out for a lot of our young players, playing in the Premiership. Look at Dan Baker who had a great season with Swansea and was rewarded with his first cap out in Japan as well. There are a lot of boys in our squad who’ve done well at Premiership level and stepped up which shows that if you do well and work hard you’ll always have a chance of bigger things.”
Having enjoyed that brief taste of the international game Baldwin wants more, but he is well aware of the size of the challenge ahead of him at the region before he can even contemplate anything else:
“It was a great experience overall, something different for me. Going into a new environment, meeting new people and developing my social skills, all things that will hopefully help to make me a better player.
“The first thing I thought after the second test was I want to experience this again. To do that, I’ve got to push on and play well for the Ospreys. Obviously, with someone like Richard Hibbard in front of me getting regular rugby is a real challenge, but it’s one I’m looking forward to.
“He’s a Test series winning Lion and Wales regular. He’s been outstanding over the last couple of seasons and I know that playing alongside him and competing week-in, week-out with him can only make me a better player as I’m going to have perform to international standard just to start a game for the Ospreys.”