Poster boy of Welsh rugby, Louis Rees-Zammit insists he has recovered from the biggest setback of his promising career after being dropped before England match at the Six Nations
- Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit soared to prominence for club and country
- The 21-year-old’s inclusion in the Lions tour confirmed his exceptional talent
- This season has been more trying and he was released from the Wales squad
- He earned a swift recall after quickly responding with a try for Gloucester
- Rees-Zammit has revealed the advice he’s received since he was dropped
Welsh rugby’s ‘poster boy’, Louis Rees-Zammit, says he has recovered from his biggest career setback — being dropped during the Six Nations before the marquee clash with England.
The 21-year-old Gloucester wing had soared to prominence with his try-scoring exploits over the last two years, to earn acclaim as a new box-office sensation.
His inclusion in the Lions squad last summer confirmed his status as an exceptional talent, but this season has been tougher and he was released from the squad by Wales head coach Wayne Pivac before the trip to Twickenham.
Louis Rees-Zammit was dropped by Wales ahead of their Six Nations clash with England
The axing sparked shock, but Rees-Zammit responded with a try for Gloucester which earned him a swift Wales recall.
Speaking about the episode for the first time, he said: ‘Getting dropped happens to the best. It hadn’t happened to me before, but talking to the experienced players helped. I talked to mates like Dan Biggar and Jonathan Davies; players who have done it all.
‘They said to me, ‘We’ve all been here — go away and prove to the coaches why you should be in the team’. That’s all I could do, because he (Pivac) wasn’t going to say, ‘Ah, you’re moaning about it, I’ll put you back in’. I had to go away and prove I could take those learnings on board.’
Asked what feedback he had received from Pivac and his staff, Rees-Zammit added: ‘They wanted me to get my hands on the ball more and work harder. They wanted me to get in positions to get the ball by working off my wing. I went away, came off the bench against Northampton and scored, which was good. The next week, I was in the 23.’
It was an unfamiliar predicament for a prodigy who had barely put a foot wrong since bursting into the senior ranks. He has taken on board the need for hard graft to develop a more rounded game, but is adamant that his self-belief has not been adversely affected.
After exploding into prominence, the highly rated 21-year-old has endured a tougher season
Wayne Pivac released him from the Wales squad before the country’s trip to Twickenham
‘It’s not a confidence thing because I know what I can do,’ said Rees-Zammit. ‘It’s just about doing your work-ons in training then go out at the weekend and put it all on show. Hopefully, I’ve done that pretty well. It hasn’t taken me too long.
‘Last season, everything I was doing was working. Maybe not so much this season — but it is about learning from that and carrying on doing what I did. I know I can do some of the stuff I did last season — when I get the chance, I have to take it.’
Wales’s Six Nations campaign ended in calamity with a shock home defeat by Italy. Rees-Zammit said: ‘There wasn’t one player who wasn’t absolutely devastated after the game. We felt embarrassed that we let the fans down. It wasn’t good enough.’
Rees-Zammit earned a swift recall after scoring a try for his club side Gloucester
Close friend Dan Biggar was among the players to offer Rees-Zammit guidance afterwards
Gloucester head coach George Skivington praised Rees-Zammit’s recent commitment to the ‘nitty-gritty stuff’, to complement the more instinctive and explosive elements of his game. He believes that the reaction to adversity has been impressive.
‘He’s a young man and he has had a very fast-tracked career,’ said Skivington. ‘The Six Nations was the first time he has had a bump in the road. Being England-Wales, it was a bit of a shock. He was disappointed at first, but he just rolled his sleeves up.
‘He’s done nothing but work hard and do what’s right for Gloucester. He had to sit on the bench a couple of times, but that’s what was right for the team and he came on and scored a couple of magical tries.
‘It’s not easy when you are in a world that he’s in, where people are paying attention to you all the time. Getting dropped is a bigger deal than it would be for a standard rugby player. When you are in the limelight — one of the poster boys of the game — everyone knows when you’ve been dropped, so it’s a tough thing to deal with, and he dealt with it really well.’
Rees-Zammit and Gloucester take on Bristol at Ashton Gate on Friday night knowing that a victory would enhance their prospects of earning a place in the Premiership play-offs. They are seeking to extend their three-pronged push for honours this season; in the league, European Challenge Cup and the Premiership Cup.
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