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'He told me I'd never play for Wales': One coach's brutal put-down of a 16-year-old Rees-Zammit

By Liam Heagney

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Lions pick Louis Rees-Zammit has revealed how an old coach of his at Cardiff told him at the age of 16 that he would never play for Wales after he chose to go to Hartpury College rather pick somewhere more local to study. The now 20-year-old stuck to his guns, moving to England where he has since gone on to establish himself on the Gallagher Premiership circuit with Gloucester, his form there becoming the stepping stone for his nine-cap breakthrough season with the Six Nations title-winning Wales which has now led to his selection to tour South Africa with the Lions. 

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Rees-Zammit’s call-up by Warren Gatland made him the youngest Lions pick since 1959, quite an achievement in sharp contrast to the negative dressing down he was given by an unwitting coach just a few years ago. 

Appearing in the latest edition of Rugby Journal, the acclaimed coffee table magazine, Rees-Zammit gave a rare life-and-times style interview that touched on a crucial part of his development – his decision to move from Wales to England to further his education. 

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Rees-Zammit doesn’t name the coach in the interview but their paths have since crossed at Wales training under Wayne Pivac, resulting in the electric winger giving that person a very wide berth due to what was previously said.  

“He told me I would never play for Wales,” explained popular Lions pick Rees-Zammit in the lengthy interview. “It was when I was 16 and had decided to go to Hartpury and he said I couldn’t go to Hartpury and play for the Cardiff Blues and he was like, ‘Make a decision’. 

“It was when I was 16 and had decided to go to Hartpury because I didn’t want to go to a college in Wales,” he continued. “I did go and look at a few colleges around Wales, but there was no comparison – it was the facilities, the social side… Then I went to a Cardiff Blues game and he was there, and he walked up to me and said, ‘That’s going to cost you a Welsh cap’, and walked off. I was a 16-year-old boy. I just thought, ‘Oh my God, have I made the right decision?’

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“When I was in the Six Nations camp later, he [the coach] came to two sessions and was shaking everyone’s hand and I just avoided him – I’ve not spoken to him since.” 

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'He told me I'd never play for Wales': One coach's brutal put-down of a 16-year-old Rees-Zammit

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