Louis Rees-Zammit was watching Wales’ previous Six Nations triumph as a spectator two years ago, but he played a crucial role in their title this year, such is his meteoric rise to the top of rugby union. Only a year ago he was uncapped at international level; now the electric Wales wing, aged 20, is set to be be selected for the British and Irish Lions.
Warren Gatland’s 36-man Lions squad will take on five warm-up Tests in South Africa this summer before facing the Springboks in three eagerly anticipated Test matches.
Such was Rees-Zammit’s brilliance for Wales, and for Gloucester this season, that his name was a virtual guarantee to be among the players chosen from England, Ireland, Scotland and his Welsh squad by coach Gatland.
Speaking during the Six Nations, Rees-Zammit said: “I only live 10 minutes away from the stadium (Principality Stadium), so I’ve gone to watch Wales since I was a kid, really, with my parents. I couldn’t tell you how many games, but loads. I’ve grown up supporting Wales. It has all come very fast, and I am loving it, to be honest.”
Rees-Zammit has taken the Premiership by storm since announcing his arrival in the 2019-20 season, scoring a hat-trick against Northampton – the youngest player ever to do so, aged 18 at the time.
But it was during the Six Nations that he really confirmed his place on the place to South Africa. Rees-Zammit scored a try against Ireland in the first round of matches, and was man of the match with two tries against Scotland. In the grand slam decider against France in Paris he was very nearly the hero, seeming to have scored brilliantly in the corner only to be denied by the TMO Wayne Barnes, who judged the ball to have been grounded on the corner flag rather than the try line.
It is thought Rees-Zammit’s pace will cause South Africa plenty of headaches on hard dry pitches with ball in hand.
“Whatever level he has played at and whatever challenge we have thrown at him, he has risen to it,” Gloucester’s junior academy manager Alex Guest told planetrugby recently. “He has never been about ‘just give me the ball, and I will score’. He has always been a team player, and he will use other attributes to help the team win.
“He knows that he is quick, but if you ask him how quick, he will always make a joke and play it down. He knows if he gets the ball, he will back himself. At every level, he has proven he can beat the best players. When you are performing like he is at the moment, you have just got to ride the wave. I think he is going to be an exciting player for a long time.”
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