While Corey Baldwin’s decision to leave the Scarlets for Exeter during the summer left Wales’ leading region vexed, for the player himself it was a golden opportunity.
Born in the leafy Surrey suburb of Camberley, Baldwin moved to South Wales at an early age before playing his junior rugby for Llandeilo RFC and progressing into the Scarlets academy ranks, while also cutting his teeth at Llandovery RFC after representing Wales U16s.
With nine PRO14 appearances to his name in 2019/20 before the Covid-19 lockdown, Baldwin had started to make his mark for the Scarlets and, as a natural outside centre who can also operate on the wing, was being seen as a natural successor to Jonathan Davies.
Baldwin thought otherwise, however, and last week made his Exeter debut against Northampton, starting on the wing in what turned out to be stirring 22-19 win.
“It’s been really good so far,” Baldwin, 21, said. “I managed to tear a quad in my first week of training at Chiefs but I got back into it pretty quickly and to get my first start was really pleasing. We wanted to put in a good performance and it was another step forward.”
Of his decision to leave Wales, Baldwin says: “Scarlets were my senior club from when my family moved to Wales when I was six and they wanted to keep me, but the opportunity to play in the Premiership is massive, as well as the coaching and experience I’ll get at Chiefs.
“It was a hard process but it was one of those decisions where you think about the experiences you could have at one of Europe’s top clubs. I had a lot of support from home and my aim now is to get into the Exeter team more regularly and see how it goes.”
Baldwin reveals he never played rugby before moving to Wales.
He explained: “I didn’t play any rugby at all before leaving but I soon joined Llandeilo and played there from U7s right through to their U16s.
“It was a good club to be involved in and we had a good side at my age group, so that set me up to get on to the Scarlets radar, while I also played for Llandovery.”
An outside centre mainly, Baldwin was a huge admirer of Brian O’Driscoll growing up, while the influence of Wales and Lions star Davies cannot be underestimated.
He said: “I really enjoyed watching O’Driscoll and I saw quite a lot of Super Rugby as well, so Julian Savea was someone I also admired when he was at the Hurricanes.
“At Scarlets, I had a few chats with Jonathan Davies about how to get the most out of playing that No.13 role, especially defensively, so I’ve had that experience others may not have had access to and it’s great to pick the brains of a guy like that.
“You obviously aspire to get to the levels of all the guys I’ve mentioned, but there’s tough competition for places at Chiefs and I’m just trying to get involved here.”