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Shock dropping 'just a blip' for Louis Rees-Zammit claims teammate

By PA
Louis Rees-Zammit /PA

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Dan Biggar believes Louis Rees-Zammit’s Wales omission is “just a little blip for him” after he missed out on selection for the Guinness Six Nations clash against England.

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The 21-year-old Gloucester wing scored four tries during last season’s tournament and is rated among British rugby’s hottest properties.

But he has been replaced by a fit-again Josh Adams for Wales’ Twickenham trip on Saturday, with Alex Cuthbert retained on the other wing and set to win his 50th cap.

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It is the first setback of Rees-Zammit’s exciting Test career, and Wales captain Biggar said: “It is never easy when selection doesn’t quite go your way for one reason or another.

“The only people I can think of is someone like a Dan Carter or a Jonny Wilkinson, who have never had to go through it.

“He is young, he has burst on to the scene, he’s an incredible talent and is a real poster boy for Wales.

“I don’t think anyone is thinking this is the end for him at all! At 21, he has got years and years left in him.

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“He is a great lad, and he has got a brilliant head on his shoulders.

“He is an extremely talented boy with a huge future, and I am sure this is just a little blip for him.”

Rees-Zammit suffered an ankle injury during the warm-up against Ireland earlier this month, although he played in that game and against Scotland a week later.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac added: “It’s a tough call on Louis, but one that we think is the right call.

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“He is no different to any other player. He is disappointed, obviously.

“He did pick up an ankle injury in the warm-up before the Ireland game. That probably hasn’t been at 100 (per cent) and that is factored in.

“But we’ve gone with experience, we’ve gone with a bit of extra work-rate across the field without the ball, as well as with the ball.”

Louis Rees-Zammit
Louis Rees-Zammit /Getty

While Rees-Zammit was omitted, Pivac has welcomed back Bath number eight Taulupe Faletau.

Faletau makes his first Wales appearance for 11 months, having proved his fitness following a long-term ankle injury by playing in Bath’s last two Gallagher Premiership matches against Wasps and Leicester.

He returns in a reshaped back-row, with Ross Moriarty switching to blindside flanker and Taine Basham lining up at openside. Jac Morgan, who made his Test debut against Scotland 12 days ago, is on the bench.

Pivac has retained Owen Watkin and Nick Tompkins as his centre combination, while there are call-ups among the replacements for Ospreys fly-half Gareth Anscombe, Scarlets scrum-half Kieran Hardy and Dragons prop Leon Brown.

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On Faletau, who wins his 87th cap, Pivac said: “He has a lot of experience, which is going to be required, and he has also had a couple of games under his belt now, with 80 minutes last week.

“He has slotted in very quickly. We are starting him, and we will see how long he goes for.”

Wales have not beaten England in the Six Nations at Twickenham since 2012, and both teams need a victory to keep alive their title aspirations.

Pivac added: “History would show it’s a hard place to go and get a result, but we are certainly going there with that aim in mind.

“If you look at it, history shows they (England) have started their Test matches well, and we are probably on the other side of things – starting slowly and conceding points.

“It is an area where we need to start well, don’t let England get into their stride too early, but that is easier said than done.

“The team that make fewest mistakes in these big Test matches and are disciplined, usually have a good opportunity of winning the match. We’ve got to be clinical in everything we do.”

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