“A star is born” said Welsh rugby legend Jonathan Davies after Louis Rees-Zammit’s two tries in the thrilling 25-24 victory over 14-man Scotland in their Six Nations clash on Saturday.
Davies’s comment franked what English Premiership side Gloucester’s former management team of David Humphreys and Johan Ackermann had seen when he joined in 2018.
Richard Whiffin, then the director of Gloucester’s Academy side, described him as “a rock star” and he certainly was music to the ears of the ‘Cherry and White’ fans.
Last season against Northampton aged 18 he became the youngest player to score a hat-trick in the Premiership’s history.
He was a natural to be called up when Wayne Pivac arrived to replace Warren Gatland as Wales head coach and sought to refresh the squad.
Due to his Maltese paternal grandfather — hence the Zammit — living in England Eddie Jones and England had been keen to secure the services of the Wales-born flyer.
“From day one he’s been Welsh,” Whiffin told the Daily Mail last year.
“He has no English ancestry at all so it was never an option.”
“When John Fletcher was in charge of the England U18s he tried hard to see if Louis wanted to play—as he was in an English academy he would’ve been able to at U18, not U20.
“But he said “nah, I’m Welsh — it would feel wrong wearing a white shirt”.
The wing who has earned the nickname ‘Rees Lightning’, though ‘The Maltese Falcon’ would also sit well, has shown no fear in the step up to Test rugby.
A try in the 21-16 defeat of 14-man Ireland was followed by his man of the match display.
‘Living the dream’
The second of his two tries especially stood out and had Davies—who knows a thing or two about individual brilliance when he was in his pomp in the 1980’s and 1990’s—purring with delight.
Receiving the ball on the halfway line he ran a few metres then kicked ahead and outsprinted two Scots defenders including captain Stuart Hogg to touch down.
“It was just class… his acceleration, then the chip,” said Davies in his role as BBC pundit.
“I think a star is born today.
“I think he’s played himself onto a Lions tour if they go.
“He looks as if he’s gliding.
“I know his mam (Maxine) and dad (Joe), (when he scores) they have hit the ceiling, they are great, great people.”
Sadly due to COVID-19 protocols neither they nor his older brother Taylor —who prior to the pandemic never missed a game Louis played in — were not in the stadium.
Pivac and skipper Alun Wyn Jones—who won his first cap when Rees-Zammit was just five-years-old—praised him but with caveats.
“Hopefully this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Jones.
“I do not want to heap pressure on him.”
Pivac could take credit for having blooded him last year in the Six Nations and then the Autumn Nations Cup.
“He was exciting with the ball, wasn’t he?” said Pivac.
“He has still got work to do on his game, without the ball, and that is the exciting thing.
“He has got confidence with the ball in hand, he has got the pace, and you can’t coach that.”
Rees-Zammit is unlikely to allow the headlines to go to his head as he was described to the Daily Mail as being a “polite, well brought-up and introverted” young lad.
His immediate post match reaction reflected that.
“I’m thoroughly enjoying it, the whole team have helped me settle in and I’m loving playing on this sort of stage,” said Rees-Zammit, whose first name is pronounced Loo-is.
Jeremy Guscott, the former England and British & Irish Lions centre, is not always the easiest man to impress but he was by Rees-Zammit.
“It’s just fantastic to see such a young player, who just wants the ball in his hands to show his teammates and the world what he can do,” he told the BBC.
“It’s just wonderful to watch. He’s living the dream.”