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England's Rees-Zammit flirtation always doomed

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Rees-Zammit's all-time sporting hero meant England's flirtation was never a runner

England’s flirtation with Louis Rees-Zammit was always likely to end in tears for one very good reason – the 18-year-old’s all-time sporting hero is iconic Wales winger Shane Williams. 

It was reported last Sunday by The RugbyPaper that Eddie Jones – via team boss Richard Hill – had sounded out the Gloucester winger’s interest in potentially declaring for England on residency grounds ahead of the 2020 Six Nations. 

However, that approach was reportedly rebuffed by the youngster who turns 19 on February 2, the day after Wayne Pivac’s Wales open their campaign at home to Italy.  

Warren Gatland’s successor is due to announce his squad for the tournament next week and there is much speculation that it will include Rees-Zammit, the Penarth-born kid who has so far only represented Wales at under-18s level. 

Fresh from winning the Gallagher Premiership’s latest player of the month award following five tries in three December appearances for Gloucester, he name-checked Williams as his sporting hero during an interview with the club’s TV station.

(Continue reading below…) 

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Asked to name his three favourite sportspeople, he told Gloucester Rugby TV: “Probably (Cristiano) Ronaldo up top. I have always watched him play – he is something else, the things he has done, the successes he has had. 

“Second one would be my sporting hero, Shane Williams. I always used to watch him when I was a kid, went to Wales games and he always used to be the stand-out player. 

“And third, Rafael Nadal. One of the greatest tennis players ever. I do enjoy playing tennis, not that I am any good.”

It was last April when Rees-Zammit made his Premiership debut off the bench for Gloucester, appearing in a derby encounter versus Bath, but he came to prominence last month with a stellar show of form which included a hat-trick versus Northampton and two more tries versus Worcester.

It’s a rise to prominence he didn’t particularly plan for. “I didn’t have a main goal,” he said when asked what he hoped to achieve in 2019/20.  

“I just wanted to get better every day and just wanted to put that shirt on, run out in front of Kingsholm. I never actually had something up there to go and achieve. I just took it day by day, a see where it got me kind of thing.

“Definitely, I want to be the best player, I want to always improve. In training, I always want to shine, stuff like that which gives me the motivation to play the game.”

Reflecting on his pathway through the ranks, Rees-Zammit paid tribute to the sacrifice of his family in helping him to make the breakthrough.  

“I officially got picked up why Gloucester when I was 16 having moved from Cardiff to Hartpury and then just kept playing, played under-18s, played the academy league, lost twice in the final and then just trained hard, tried to get myself out there and then luckily I got the opportunity to play against Bath last year and it was a very good experience.

“It is pretty amazing. My family are supportive of everything I do. My dad used to travel three times a week to Hartpury to take me up and back, so they have been supportive. Say if I score or the first time I go on the pitch, I go to look at them, see what they are up to. I love every moment.”

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Rees-Zammit's all-time sporting hero meant England's flirtation was never a runner