I will admit that before your recent trip to South Africa I did not know you all that well. I love rugby, but my interest is drawn more towards the Aviva Premiership and Super Rugby competitions. I know you have represented Wales a few times, even excelling in the 2015 Six Nations, but it is easy for Pro14 players and clubs to blend together. Unfortunately, you were one of those guys.
Then, in the course of one moment of madness, all that changed. You went from being ‘generic front row forward Scott Baldwin’ to ‘I think it is ok to stroke lions Scott Baldwin’ in one glorious moment of “what was he thinking?”
I was watching an Aviva Premiership match when I first heard the incident being reported. I remember the slightly stunned tone in the commentator’s voice, like he could not believe what he was reporting on, as he relayed the information that you had been bitten while attempting to befriend a lion.
Amazingly you are not the first rugby player I have known to be mauled by a lion. A few years ago I played against a man named Dane Keiser, a South African who had been attacked by lions at a sanctuary while in high school. His story was told in an American TV series called I’m Alive, something it seems like you are both lucky to be for various reasons.
Listening to a BBC interview about your situation, I heard some of the following lines:
“The next day it (an infection) started tracking up my arm. The surgeon said there was a chance I could lose my hand.”
“The bite went straight through the other side of the hand, but I was really lucky it didn’t hit any tendons or ligaments.”
“The surgeon said it was like winning the lottery, he said it was the best possible outcome considering I had been bitten by a lion.”
Just for future reference. None of these lines are things that should have to be said.
We all know the Pro14 has now expanded to South Africa. The next time you are down there – or anywhere else that the league decides is worth expanding to – it might be worth working out what local animals are not too fond of being stroked. Examples here would include crocodiles, tigers, and alligators.
In all seriousness, it seems like your recovery has gone well and your ability to play at the top level has not been hindered. This is obviously a good thing and one we are happy to see despite the jokes. Let this be a lesson to you and to everyone else out there that wild animals – even tame ones – are prone to go wild again at any moment.
RealSport Rugby Union Editor
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