Wales international Dan Baker has had a last-minute change of heart about joining Merthyr and is moving to Aberavon.
The three-cap player was ready to commit to the Ironmen, only for him to review matters before putting pen to paper and deciding to link up with the Wizards after his departure from the Dragons.
“I saw the story in the press about me, Tavis Knoyle and Josh Lewis going to Merthyr,” Baker said.
“I was going there but I signed for Aberavon.
“Why did I change my mind? I’ve worked with his trainer Jason Hyatt before and I like the way he trains and I like him as a person. He is honest, positive and enthusiastic.
“Also, Aberavon is only 10 minutes down the street from where I live, not 40 minutes.
“And I like them as a club. I played for them when I was with the Ospreys and really enjoyed being there. I know a lot of the guys like Joe Thomas, Rhodri Hughes and Sam Williams so I look forward to joining them and others and enjoying my rugby again.”
Baker could be a major upgrade for the Wizards.
He showed when he started for the Dragons against Ulster earlier this year that he could He still operates at a high level, with his 14 carries on the night seeing five defenders hit and 67 meters made for his side. There were also 12 tackles and no misses. Later, Sean Holley mentioned it in the same sentence as Scott Quinnell – “Boisterous with fairly quick feet.”
To be sure, the 6-foot-2, 17th, 13-pound No. 8 remains a tough man to stop and someone who is almost guaranteed to step up the team.
But the Dragoons chose not to retain him.
“They’ve got a lot of guys on the back line, and they’re all quality guys,” Baker said.
“When I went there, their director of rugby, Dean Ryan, told me that they were going to sign me because I offered them something different.
“But then I hardly played.
“I only had two starts in the year and a half that I was there. I thought I did well in those games.
“I played Ulster earlier this year and I thought I did well. I had the Dragons man of the match award, but in the next game I played just 10 minutes against Munster in a game we lost by over 60 points. It’s hard to change a game in 10 minutes.
“Obviously it didn’t fit the way Dean and the Dragons wanted to play. They told me I needed to get fitter and faster. Dean’s entitled to an opinion, but my carries were pretty decent and that’s what I base my game on. I will always do my best to record a high number of tackles and when I played Ulster in my only start to the season I didn’t miss a thing defensively.
“I don’t know if they didn’t like me or the way I played.”
Despite being eager to play for Aberavon, Baker is less than impressed to be leaving professional rugby. “I am devastated because I am only 29 years old and many people I know tell me that I can still do a job.
“But that’s the way it is.
“I am just grateful to Aberavon for showing interest.
“I have not decided what I will do with rugby. I signed when I got out of school, so I don’t know any different. All I know is rugby. It will be something new and different; Hopefully, I’ll like it.” You may Read more about Baker here.
Baker he is not the only Wales international released by the Dragons this summer, with Adam Warren also leaving. “I feel sorry for him,” Baker said.
“He’s an outstanding player and an outstanding guy, and then he gets in.”
you can read how Adam Warren was left out by the Dragons at the last minute here.
But at least there is an opportunity waiting for Baker. “I will stay fit and try to be faster,” he said.
“I don’t think I will change too much at this stage, but I will try to improve. I’d like to think I can carry the ball. I’ve played that way for a long time and it allowed me a few games for Wales.”
He has no doubts about his best coach at the regional level. “Steve Tandy was excellent,” he said.
“Allen Clarke was also good.
“With Tandy, what I liked the most was her honesty. He was always honest and told the kids how he was, but he also went out of his way to help you. I played a lot with it and enjoyed it. We had an identity and we knew how to play”.
It’s too early for Baker to leave the pay-per-play scene, but he feels he’ll enjoy playing for Aberavon and there’s a good chance he’ll be proven right.