The forgotten Welshman battling to make Warren Gatland's RWC plans
Taine Basham is the first to admit his outlook on life has changed completely since becoming a dad. His partner, Giovanna, gave birth to a baby boy in December, with little Tomas now four months old.
It’s put everything in a new perspective for the Dragons back row forward, including the ups and downs of the past couple of years on the rugby front.
He was Wales’ stand-out performer during the Autumn Internationals in 2021 and carried that form into the start of the 2022 Six Nations.
But then the last 12 months has brought him just the one outing off the bench at Test level, amid an untimely elbow dislocation.
Now though he is fit and firing again and looking forward to Saturday’s BKT United Rugby Championship derby away to the Ospreys as he aims to force his way back into the Wales reckoning ahead of the World Cup.
While rugby ambition continues to drive him on, there’s a different balance to his life now as he comes to terms with fatherhood.
“It’s a whirlwind at the start. You go from having the two of you to coming home from the hospital with the three of you,” he says.
“I was going through my rehab from injury as well, so that was an interesting time, but I’ve kind of adapted to family life now and to less sleep!
“We have an agreement, me and my partner. On training days, I won’t get up as much in the night as she will. Then when I have time off, I am a bit more hands on.
“Giovanna has been good as gold. She has been the best mother to Tomas, so I am lucky there.”
The 23-year-old Basham continues: “Your outlook on life and your outlook on rugby as well completely changes.
“When you are in your early 20s and playing for Wales, you really focus on yourself and your preparation. It’s all about you. When you’ve got a baby, you are focusing on how you are providing for your family.
“I am a young man and I’ve got to provide for my partner and my baby boy. So it’s a completely different outlook on life and the game really. It’s completely changed.”
Talywain-product Basham, who is now based in Cwmbran, is able to take a freshly philosophical approach to the fluctuating fortunes of life as a rugby player.
Those were well illustrated on last summer’s tour of South Africa with Wales, where he was a spectator during the historic victory over the Springboks in Bloemfontein, with his involvement limited to an outing as a replacement in the final Test defeat.
“It was very bitter sweet,” he admits. “I only really saw 20 minutes of game-time and I only had that due to Taulupe Faletau getting injured in the warm-up.
“We trained hard together and you are happy seeing your mates do well, but not being involved was a bit bitter sweet, like I say.”
Then came the further disappointment of suffering an elbow injury against Cardiff at the Arms Park in mid-October, ruling him out of the autumn internationals.
“I felt I was in a good run of form at the time,” he said. “I was in a good rhythm, I felt good physically and I was playing well.
“So it was disappointing then to get that injury. It kind of stopped me in my tracks.”
Basham returned to action with the Dragons in January, but missed out on the Six Nations squad amid intense competition for back row spots.
Now he’s aiming to send out a reminder to Warren Gatland by ending the season with a bang, starting with Saturday’s clash with the Ospreys at the Swansea.com Stadium.
“Hopefully I can get back to my top form that I was in before and put my hand up to get into the World Cup squad,” he said.
“It all depends what Warren Gatland thinks is his best back row in his eyes. I have just got to put my head down, get back physically and get my hands on the ball.”
He has started in all three back row positions during his 11-cap Test career, offering a real versatility.
“No 7 is probably where I see myself. Obviously there is a lot of competition there, but that can only make you better,” he says. “The last few people who have played in the No 7 jersey for Wales have all got different qualities to offer.
“I am happy to play anywhere in the back row just to get back in that shirt. I am happy with 6, 7 or 8 if I am on the pitch. In terms of my attributes, I don’t think it changes for me.
“I like to get my hands on the ball, get my team-mates on the front foot and then in defence make some good reads and be dominant in that area.”
As for this weekend’s BKT URC Welsh derby, he adds: “It’s a big game. We know what’s coming from the Ospreys. They have got a very good pack, a good kicking game and some dangerous backs as well.
“But we are going down there optimistic. We have been training hard together during the Six Nations and hopefully we will go and do the job.”