The Rugby World Cup sleeper team that has 'no baggage'
Baldwin, who won 37 caps for his country and played in the 2015 World Cup, is convinced Warren Gatland’s squad can seize precious momentum if they beat Fiji in their opening game.
The new Newcastle Falcons defence coach believes his former teammates, whom he trained with just 8 months ago, believes that Gatland’s young squad have no ‘baggage’ to hold them back. While England and Australia have been savaged in the press, there’s an air of positivity around Wales despite their own abysmal run of results in the last 18 months.
“There is no baggage. They are going to go into the tournament ready to play. I think they will do well,” Baldwin told Grosvenor Sport.
“So much rests on the Fiji game. They have world class players, have been together for a while and they will have so much confidence after beating England. If Wales can get some momentum with Gatland’s mindset and his nous around the game there is no telling where they can get to.
“They have some X factor games as they showed in that first game against England. They didn’t have much ball to attack with, but when they get behind you, they stay behind you, which is a big thing.
“Look at the backs they have got, Louis Rees Zammit, Josh Adams, Rio Dyer, Liam Williams, Mason Grady, Nick Tomkins, Dan Biggar. As much as people say it is a young squad there is a lot of experience in there. People underestimate Dan Biggar’s attacking game.”
Baldwin says he ‘cannot speak highly enough’ about head coach Warren Gatland, who he believes will maximise the players at his disposal.
“He gave me all my caps. The way he can make a player operating at six of seven out of ten, to an eight or nine. That is his biggest strength. He has got such a great mindset. He is a special man and coach. His power is that he doesn’t speak that much. But when he does, he speaks with conviction and volume and people listen.
“When I retired he said to me that if there was anything he could do to help, then let him know. That is the mark of the man. Last week I spent the day with Wales in training. That was big for me. When you have someone like that you buy into it.
“He is really big on family first. If you have a happy wife you have a happy life!”
Baldwin, who retired at the end of last season before joining Newcastle Falcons as defence coach, says Gatland has made the right call on his captains.
“I like the fact that Jac Morgan and Dewi Lake are co-captains. They are two great young lads who lead by example. I marked Dewi out a few years ago and when I went to Quins in 2019 I said he would be captain at the 2023 World Cup! He is going to be a world class player. He has the potential to be another Malcom Marx. He is a massive man, has a really good work rate, good morals, he is just a great bloke.
“Going back to my time at the Ospreys, he was always asking me, ‘Can we do some throwing, can we do this and that, what is the thinking at this scrum?’ His thirst for knowledge is huge. He is an exceptional talent.
“People outside of Wales might not know much about him, but people will go, ‘Wow.’
“This boy has a bit about him. He has to stay fit but that is the nature of the beast; the way he plays the game. When I heard he was co-captain I was ecstatic for him. I texted him. When he got injured (v England) I waited a couple of days before texting him. When I found out he was going to be ok that was brilliant news.”
“Warren did likewise in 2015 when I was one of only two hookers, with Ken Owens. He knows how robust they are, he will have looked at their performances. Gats will have used the fitness of the scrum halves as the barometer for preparations in terms of fitness. Gats is big on the stats side of things. There is a quite a lot of time between games too. He will have factored that in as well.”
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