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'I don't think he is healthy': Jones butts into Rees-Zammit debate

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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England boss Eddie Jones has suggested that Louis Rees-Zammit was excluded from the Wales team to play at Twickenham on Saturday because he isn’t fit enough to play, not because of a lack of his best form. Speculation emerged on Wednesday morning that the 21-year-old winger was set to be axed by Wayne Pivac, a selection decision confirmed at 11:30am on Thursday when Wales named their XV at the same time Jones unveiled his English picks.

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Rees-Zammit, who last summer toured South Africa with Warren Gatland’s Lions, had been a regular Wales selection since making an October 2020 debut away to France. However, despite starting in five of his country’s six Autumn Nations and Six Nations games so far this season, he was excluded from their matchday 23 for London.  

On the surface, it looked like a massive decision to drop Rees-Zammit, but Jones was adamant at his 11:45am media briefing that the youngster had been excluded due to injury and not form despite a criticised performance in the round two loss to Scotland following on from the opening round loss to Ireland. 

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“They have left Zammit out because I don’t think he is fit, mate,” said Jones, when quizzed about the absence of the flyer from the Welsh line-up. “I don’t think he is healthy. If you are a racehorse owner you wouldn’t be putting him out on the track, mate. You’d have him in the stables for a while.”

Speaking at his media briefing, which began 45 minutes after Jones began his England team announcement press session, Pivac suggested straightaway that Rees-Zammit was a form decision. “It was a tough call for Louis to take. Everyone wants to be selected. For us, the experience of the other two [Josh Adams and Alex Cuthbert], work rate off the ball and those sort of things are going to come into play.”

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How did Rees-Zammit take that demotion? “No different to any other player,” continued Pivac. “He is disappointed and he will be frustrated. We expect him to go and work hard and come back stronger.”

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It was later in the media briefing when Jones’ racehorse and stables remark about Rees-Zammit was put to Pivac. “Has Eddie got spies in our training sessions? He picked up an ankle injury in the Ireland warm-up and he hasn’t been at 100 per cent. But we have gone with experience and a bit of work-rate across the field.”

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